Joan Parker, the philanthropist and widow of mystery writer Robert B. Parker, has died. Parker, a longtime Cambridge [Massachusetts] resident, died Tuesday, according to Helen Brann, a longtime friend and agent to Robert B. Parker. Joan Parker had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in August 2011, and was receiving treatment. A tireless fundraiser for a host of different charities, Parker was barely slowed by her illness. Last month, she co-chaired the annual fund-raiser of PFLAG, a national nonprofit supporting parents, families, and friends of lesbians and gays. (Parker’s two children, Dan and David, are both gay.)You’ll recall that Bob Parker, who created the very popular fictional Boston private eye Spenser, died in January 2010 at age 77--but not before repeatedly dedicating his many novels to his wife, the former Joan Hall, whom he fell in love with during a freshman dance at Maine’s Colby College in 1950, while they were both students there. The pair were married in 1956. She went to become the inspiration for the character of Spenser’s longtime girlfriend, Susan Silverman, a school guidance counselor turned psychologist.
I hadn’t expected Joan Parker to perish quite so soon after her husband’s demise. I never met her (though I did once share frappés with author Parker), but I was always given to understood that she was a woman of tremendous drive, and not one to succumb easily to the demands of death. Fortunately, she was also committed to continuing her husband’s legacy, and put the Spenser series into the capable, respectful hands of Ace Atkins before she passed away.
(Hat tip to Kevin R. Tipple.)
READ MORE: “Robert B. Parker Is Dead! Long Live Robert B. Parker!,” by Zac Bissonnette (The Boston Globe Magazine).