Cooleemee gym dedicated to Grimes Parker

Published 10:55 am Thursday, June 27, 2019

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In 2009, Grimes Parker and Steve Fleming were reminiscing about Cooleemee’s good ol’ days, wishing things could go back to the way they used to be.

Once upon a time, kids played outside all day, every day; and Cooleemee was a sports town overflowing with athletes.

Fleming suggested starting a basketball camp at Cooleemee Elementary School. Parker agreed it was a great idea, so the first Grimes Parker Cooleemee Basketball Camp was held in 2010. That the camp celebrated its 10-year anniversary last week is a testament to Parker, Clement Fleming and many other volunteers.

Before becoming a great coach, Parker was a great athlete at Davie from 1959-63. He was as tough as you-know-what in football, basketball and baseball. He helped lead the Rebels to conference titles in basketball (1962) and baseball (1963). As a senior, he went 9-1 on the mound and hit .589, which remains a record. He was inducted in the Davie Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.

Then came a 30-year teaching/coaching career from the late 1960s through 1998. The first 12 years or so of his career was at Cooleemee when it was a K-8 school. South Davie Junior High opened in 1980, and Parker spent 18 years with the Tigers, coaching football and baseball and winning championships in both sports. On the sidelines, he looked intimidating beyond words. He had one of those voices you heard when you wanted to and heard when you didn’t. His honest, direct nature made him absolutely beloved by his players.

For one week in June over the past 10 years, the camp has provided kids with over 500 basketballs, 500 uniforms, 500 shoes, 500 backpacks with items inside, 500 eye exams and 500 lunches. The fee for campers for the week-long camp is a mere $25.   

At age 74, nothing warms Parker’s heart like camp week. “Each year we’ve had 50-60 campers signed up,” Bubba Coleman said. “Teaching and coaching is in his blood. Regardless of where he goes, he’s always instructing and always coaching. That’s a great part of his personality and one of the reasons I really love this man.”

Clement Fleming felt something needed to be done to cement Parker’s legacy in Cooleemee, where he has lived his entire life. At the end of camp week on June 21, with a large crowd on hand in the gym, Coleman paid tribute to Parker by revealing that the gym was being named in his honor: Grimes H. Parker Gymnasium.

Coleman said: “Last year Clement Fleming approached KC about what you’ve meant to him and some of the things that are deserving of you. Looking back at your lifetime as an educator, the community participation that you’ve had, love for your family and things that you’ve accomplished, KC wrote a letter to the board of education, wanting to in some way honor your name and things you’ve provided for this community. And without hesitation, the board of education took this initiative and ran with it. And we’re here today amongst your peers and your friends to dedicate this gymnasium in your name.”

Clint Junker said: “He’s someone who has affected my life in a positive way. (At South Davie from 1984-87), he held me accountable and did not let me get away with anything. He taught me a lot on the field, and more importantly he taught me a lot off the field.

“I have to tell one story. I think the statute of limitations has passed, so I think we’re both safe with this. Everyday before baseball practice, the players would sit at the top of the hill right outside the gym and wait for the coaches and then we’d walk down. Little did I know, Matt Marion, a classmate of ours, was giving coach Parker a lot of grief, back and forth. As we’re sitting there waiting for the coaches to come out, all of a sudden the door busts open and here comes coach Parker storming out the door with a track starting pistol – you couldn’t get away with that today – in his hand. He starts firing it over our heads, yelling at Matt Marion. I think it took about three steps to get to the baseball field. We thought coach Parker had finally flipped out. There are a lot of memories.

“Ten years of camp that is quietly changing people’s lives. I don’t think you will ever know the full effect that you’ve had on people through this camp, through coaching and through teaching. But I stand here able to tell you the effect that you had on me personally. So as a board member, as a community member and personally, I want to say thank you for what you mean and for what you continue to do for this community.”

C. Fleming said: “When I finished college, I finished school in the middle of the year and I needed a job. My first assignment was to help coach Parker. And I helped Mr. (Charles) Crenshaw during that time. During my 35-year career, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of people, but it all started here in Cooleemee. Coach Parker, I want to thank you.”

Daughter-in-law Dana Parker posted on Facebook: “So happy to be able to be a part of this camp. These kids learn so much and have a great time. The volunteers and coaches that come year after year are amazing.”

Steven Corriher posted on Facebook: “What an amazing week. I hate it’s over. (I) can’t wait for next year. The Parkers mean a lot to me and my family. (Naming the gym after Grimes Parker) has been a long time coming. I did not have the fortunate opportunity to have Mr. Parker as an educator or a coach, but as a mentor for me over the last couple of years, he has been amazing. It will be nice entering Grimes H. Parker Gymnasium  in Cooleemee from now on.”