Two Kiwanis clubs joined to honor a longtime member. Northside Kiwanis and Knoxville Kiwanis clubs met jointly Nov. 22 at The Foundry. Attention turned to Northsider Travis Parker, celebrating his 98th birthday that day.
He didn’t know it at the time, probably expecting to have lunch and maybe be the recipient of a rousing and perhaps discordant chorus of “Happy Birthday,” but his Kiwanis colleagues had a surprise waiting for him when the program started.
Northside members pianist Charles Goan and violinist Mary Ann Fennell played “This Land Is Your Land,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Anchors Aweigh,” the latter song reflecting his service as a U.S. Navy petty officer 1st class in World War II and in Korea.
Parker, a member of the Northside club since February 1961 who served as club president in 1969 and District V Lt. Governor in 1971-72, was then presented an original plaque made by Dave Lawson, owner of “America’s Greatest Treasures,” a Knoxville company specializing in American patriotic items.
The plaque honors all U.S. Presidents, major Washington monuments, all five branches of our military heroes, and the three most important documents in U.S. history (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights). The plaque was personalized with Travis’s very youthful Navy picture in the middle with an engraved brass plate at the bottom.
“I am so grateful. It’s hard to collect my thoughts,” Parker, accompanied by his wife, Dorothy, said in response. “My whole life has been wrapped up in Kiwanis. I’ve never had better friends and better memories. It made a difference in my life.”
Lawson made the presentation to Dorothy and Travis. Also present were Northside president Walt Wojnar and past president Tom Mattingly.
Retired from Southern Railway in 1984 as a traveling agent, Southern Weight & Inspection Bureau, Travis spends much of his free time as “Uncle Travis,” reading to students at A.L. Lotts Elementary School.
He mentioned that he had received more than 150 letters just last week from former students over his 24-year tenure. His picture also hangs in the front lobby of the school, thanks to his fellow Northside Kiwanians.
Members of Northside Kiwanis Club contributed to this report.