By Miriam Raftery
February 18, 2018 (San Diego) – Sergeant Don Parker, who saved many lives as head of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue operations for many years, died on Valentine’s Day after battling glioblastoma brain cancer, with which he was diagnosed last May.
Under Sgt. Parker’s leadership, the all-volunteer search and rescue team had a 98 percent success rate finding missing children and adults at risk. He also headed up some high-profile searches that ended in tragic discoveries, including the cases of murdered teens Chelsea King and Amber Dubois.
He met his wife, Missy, during a tireless search for her missing son, Mickey Guidry, who vanished in Ocotillo Wells in November 2009 and has never been found. (Here are photos of Mickey when he disappeared and what he might look like a few years later. View story here.)
“The Sheriff and our entire department has Don Parker’s family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” a statement issued by the Sheriff’s office states, adding that the department will work with his wife to honor Parker’s legacy.
Parker worked for the Sheriff’s department for 25 years, including working on patrol, in the jails and courts, as a training deputy, on the S.W.A.T. team, and for his last eight years, heading up Search and Rescue (SAR), where he oversaw a dedicated team of volunteers.
“His ability to relate to 240 dedicated Search and Rescue volunteers, to motivate them and get them involved is amazing,” Sheriff Bill Gore said upon Parker’s retirement,
Parker once observed, “. Everybody in the world is here for a purpose. Being in SAR allows us to make a positive difference.”
Missy Parker posted the sad news on social media on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 – Valentine’s Day.
"You said that if you could have a superpower it would be the ability to fly,” she wrote. “...you are free now to fly wherever you’d like...I just wish I was with you.” The post concludes, “RIP my husband. I will love you forever Don. 2/14/18."
Sgt. Parker had undergone surgery and chemotherapy, but part of the aggressive brain tumor was inoperable. He was in hospice at the time of his passing. His wife posted one day previously on the family’s GoFundMe page that she was “broken-hearted,” adding that her husband “has put up a fight” but that seeing his pain, she had asked God to “let Don be free.”