Gary Parker, mysterious St. Louis oil exec, is season's fifth person to die at Colorado ski resort

Yesterday at about this time, we told you about the fourth death at a Colorado resort during the current ski season -- a 46-year-old man who died after crashing into a tree at Keystone. Little did we know at the time that a fifth skier had also lost his life: Gary R. Parker, a 64-year-old St. Louis area oil tycoon so publicity-shy that no photos of him are available. Just as curious: News of Parker's death, at Beaver Creek, wasn't released until days after the fact, and then only after the persistent efforts of a St. Louis journalist. Details, images and a video below.

The reporter in question -- Michael D. Sorkin of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- contacted yours truly yesterday afternoon upon hearing about Parker's demise at a Colorado ski area. Only later did he learn the accident had taken place at Beaver Creek -- and it took multiple messages from the Post-Dispatch and Westword to prompt an official release from Beaver Creek spokeswoman Jen Brown.

Oddly, though, the release doesn't use Parker's name and fails to definitely say that he died.

The statement refers to an "incident" on the lower Larkspur Bowl, a run captured in the following video.

At 11:08 a.m. on Friday, February 7, Beaver Creek ski patrol responded to a report of an unresponsive skier, the release goes on -- and after being provided with medical treatment at the scene, the Missouri man was transported first to a hospital in Vail, and then to Swedish Medical Center in Denver.

Following this information is a line that reads, "Beaver Creek Resort, Beaver Creek Ski Patrol and the Vail Resorts family extend their deepest sympathy and support to the family and friends of the man." But rather than saying where and when he perished, Brown points the media to "the appropriate medical facility."

In the meantime, Sorkin managed to confirm Parker's death with Eagle County coroner Kara Bettis (who has not responded to a Westword interview request at this writing), but not the time or cause of death, since he passed away in Denver. Thus far, we have not been able to get additional specifics, either, although Parker's online obituary notes that he was "fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church on Saturday, February 8, 2014."

As for Parker himself, he was one of the powers behind Center Ethanol Co., listed as one of St. Louis' five largest privately held companies in a 2010 Post-Dispatch piece. Here's the Parker bio on the site, which runs underneath the accompanying graphic:

Founder/Key Investor Gary's career in the oil industry spans some thirty-five years. He is currently CEO of G.P. & W., Inc. (founded in 1986) which does business as Center Oil Company and Center Marketing Company (collectively "Center Oil"). Center Oil is an oil distribution company dealing in refined petroleum products with annual sales in excess of $4.8 billion. Gary also controls interests in numerous petroleum storage terminal companies. He also has significant investments in and sits on the Board of Directors of Reliance Bancshares, Inc. and publicly traded World Point Terminals. Prior to his ownership of Center Oil, Gary was Executive Vice President in charge of light oil operations for Apex Oil Company and its subsidiary, Clark Oil and Refining Corporation. Prior to Apex, Gary began his career in the industry at Koch Industries.
Koch Industires, as you know, is the mammoth Wichita, Kansas concern run by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who are well known for funding conservative politicians and causes. Tellingly, there's no photo of Parker alongside this blurb -- and that's the case with a recent Forbes profile, as well. In the spot where photos typically appear, the item is decorated with the generic silhouette seen here.

The most personal bit of writing about Parker we could find was in the aforementioned obituary. It reads in part:

Beloved husband of Karman Parker (nee Early) who he absolutely adored for 43 years. Dear son of Darlene Parker and the late Reid Parker. Dear father of Carolyn (Danny) Stevens, Amy (Brad) Haley, Laura (Christian) Sprich, Andrea (Tim) Puschaver, Adam Parker, and Craig (Shelley) Parker. Dear grandfather of Hannah, Parker, Connor, Eli, Zoe, Macy, Lily, Max, Emma, Gabby, Marla, Audrey, Charlie, Abi, Walker, and Hudson. Dear brother of Sharon Browning, Randy Parker, Deanna (Stephen) Saltouse, and the late Troy Parker. Dear uncle, cousin, and friend to many. Mr. Parker was the Founder and President of Center Oil Company. Services: Funeral Mass will be Thursday, February, 13, 10:00 a.m. at St. Clement of Rome Catholic Church, 1510 Bopp Rd, 63131. Interment private. Visitation will be Wednesday 2:00 - 8:00 p.m. at Bopp Chapel, 10610 Manchester Rd. in Kirkwood. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Camp Rhythm, One Children's Place, St. Louis, Mo. 63110-1077.
Our condolences to Parker's friends, family and loved ones.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa February 10: "Videos: Keystone death marks fourth official ski-resort casualty of season."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts