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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, August 3, 2000

Here’s to
Captain Parker

KAILUA-KONA -- With the 41st Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament taking a golf break yesterday, what's better than devoting time to the father of the first family of charter boat skippers.

Namely, George Parker. And when he says, "This is the captain speaking," you listen.

Not only can Parker regale you with fishing tales, he can relate a lot of oral history about Hawaii and particularly this once sleepy Big Island town.

Not bad for a former lifeguard from San Diego, who came to Hawaii in 1934 on a steamship with his Ford Model-T, drove around Oahu and fell in love with the islands.

Still alert and full of memories, Parker celebrated his 89th birthday last month.

"This guy is legendary," said HIBT founder Peter Fithian. Discovery Channel plans to do a documentary on Parker and the late Henry Chee, another pioneer charter captain.

"He went out on top," Fithian added. In his last outing at the age of 86, Parker's boat came back with an 875-pound marlin.

In 1954 , Parker became the first in the world to catch a 1,002-pound Pacific blue marlin. But it took the International Game Fish Association five years to recognize his feat.

"People were of the mind that there were no blue marlin in the Pacific Ocean," Parker said. Let alone one that huge.

Parker insisted it was a blue, not a black marlin and eventually was vindicated.

Like Hemingway's hero in "Old Man and the Sea," Parker fought his "grander" alone for 3 hours.

He was taking his boat, the Mona H, from here to a drydock in Honolulu when he hooked up with the big billfish just off Koko Head.

Parker remembered that an aircraft carrier -- he later found out that it was the U.S.S. Boxer -- was on a collision course with his idled 50-foot sampan.

"I swear the (carrier) skipper must have been an angler because he altered his course," Parker said.

While he was battling his huge fish, Parker was radioed by his friend Freeman Lang, who came out to assist.

Lang, who had urged Parker to quit the sugar business and take up charter fishing, also brought along Parker's wife, Marilyn, who was seven months pregnant at the time.

They docked at Kewalo Basin with the marlin secured alongside the boat, finally got it on the scale and found it weighed 1,002 pounds.

When Marilyn later gave birth, the name they naturally chose was Marlin.

MARLIN Parker, who along with his younger brother Randy, are now among the A-list of charter skippers.

"Randy was afraid he was going to be named Aku," Parker said with a laugh.

"Or, Ono, as in oh, no, not another one," added Marilyn, the second woman in Hawaii to be a charter captain.

The couple, who will celebrate their 49th anniversary in October, also have two daughters -- Jillynn and Gale. Yes, the latter was born when a gale hit the Kona Coast.

Parker's greatest "catch" came 10 years after his 1,002-pounder. He threw a fishing line out to rescue two men and towed their sail boat to safety when they were battered by 50 mph winds and 20-foot waves off Kiholo Bay.

He got a medal from the Coast Guard in a full-presentation ceremony that made front-page news in Honolulu, just as his world record catch did.

"I'm very proud of that," said Parker, who adds that he has also been blessed by meeting people whom he otherwise would never have met.

They include movie stars, novelists and business tycoons, who were his captive audience for eight hours at a time.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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