ANTIOCH -- Barney Parsons, mayor of Antioch in the 1970s and member of many regional committees for decades, died Monday afternoon of natural causes. He was 82.
Though he slowed down in the last few years by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parsons still served on the Contra Costa Fairgrounds board, kept an eye on local politics and doted attention on his wife, Martha, and grandchildren.
"I was so lucky he made me a part of his life. He was my rock," Martha Parsons said. "I'm glad I had as long as I had and he fought to stay with me for a long time. It's a great blessing."
Martha said Parsons remained "sharp as a tack" through Sunday, recalling an exchange they had decorating the kitchen table for Thanksgiving.
"He was just a great leader and an honorable man," said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction and a former Antioch councilman. Torlakson, who considers Parsons one of his inspirations for getting involved in politics, visited Martha and Barney Parsons in the hospital on Monday.
An Army veteran who was stationed in Germany during the Korean War, Parsons was later employed for about 40 years at DuPont, working mainly as a regional buyer for the Western region's "white pigment" plants, and earning a reputation for having strong ethics and leadership.
Parsons served on the Antioch City Council from 1972 to 1976, and was mayor in 1973.
Martha Parsons said his proudest accomplishment during his time on the council was starting the Antioch redevelopment agency and purchasing the old Sears building downtown, which is now the Nick Rodriguez Community Center.
"He believed in Antioch, and was always trying to do what was best for Antioch," said Leo Fontana, a former councilman and longtime friend. Fontana was on the city's recreation commission during Parsons' time on the council.
Parsons was the type of leader who kept an even keel and didn't "pound the table" to make a point or get angry, Fontana said.
Martha Parsons said her husband also felt he "could get more done for the community when he wasn't on the council, because there was too much pressure from outside forces."
Torlakson said Parsons acted as a "champion for the community" by helping lobby for funding for a park near the Antioch Marina and money to widen Highway 4.
Parsons later served on the Delta Science Center board and as the county representative on the Tri-Delta Transit board of directors for 26 years.
"Even after he was no longer on the board, he still read all of the agendas and loved it as much as he ever did," said Jeanne Krieg, Tri Delta's CEO.
His diligence and detailed questions "were a challenge, but it was great to have him," said Krieg, adding his corporate experience was helpful in setting purchasing policy.
"He was a great man with a huge heart; he's leaving some huge shoes to replace on our board," Contra Costa Fairgrounds CEO Robert Williamson said.
In addition to being active in the Elks Lodge for almost 40 years, Little League president and a charter member of the Antioch Historical Society, Parsons also worked with his wife over the years in campaigning for several local Democrats.
Parsons is survived by his wife, Martha; daughters Nancy Basista and Sue Parsons; three stepsons and nine grandchildren.
A visitation will be held 10 a.m. Monday at Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 1313 A St., followed by a rosary at 10:30 a.m. and memorial Mass. Burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery, followed by a reception at the Contra Costa Fairgrounds.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Who: Barney Parsons
Born: Sept. 25, 1931, in Los Angeles
Died: Nov. 25, 2013, in Antioch
Family: Parsons is survived by his wife, Martha; daughters Nancy Basista and Sue Parsons; three stepsons and nine grandchildren.
Services: A visitation will be held 10 a.m. Monday at Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 1313 A St., followed by a rosary at 10:30 a.m. and memorial Mass. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, followed by a reception at the Contra Costa Fairgrounds.
Donations: Donations in Parsons' memory can be sent to: Antioch Police Activities League or the Antioch Police Canine Unit, 300 L St., Antioch, CA 94509.