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KNOXVILLE — John Parker, executive director of the University of Tennessee Physical Plant, passed away Thursday at UT Medical Center after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 69.

Parker was a UT employee for nearly 40 years.

“John was one of the best friends anybody could ever have,” Mike Sherrell, UT physical plant associate director who knew Parker for 20 years, said. “He had many, many friends. His loss is going to be felt by a lot of people.”

Parker was hired at UT in February 1962 to work in the purchasing department. He transferred to the physical plant four years later, where he was named acting director in January 1978 and permanent director in November.

Parker also spearheaded programs in 1980 at UT Physical Plant to collect food and clothing for needy families each year during the holidays.

“He was a very giving, helping person,” said Eleanor Houser, senior administrative assistant at the physical plant and Parker’s co-worker since 1971. “He was particularly proud of those programs.”

Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Martha; son Chan of Atlanta; son Brad and daughter Pennye Wilkerson, both of Knoxville; stepdaughter Carol Traub of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and three grandchildren.

Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at Highland Memorial Cemetery, 5315 Kingston Pike.

Funeral services will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Mann Heritage Chapel, 6200 Kingston Pike. The family will receive friends immediately afterwards.