Mike Parker 1943-2018

Mike Parker

Blessed with a deep voice, handsome features and a rare gift for storytelling, Mike Parker was a fixture at WBBM-Channel 2 for more than 35 years. The veteran broadcast journalist, who retired from the CBS-owned station in 2016, has died at 75.

On its morning news Monday CBS 2 reported Parker died overnight at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he had been admitted for heart failure last week.

“Versatility was Mike’s calling card,” said CBS 2 news anchor Jim Williams, a longtime colleague. “He was a great anchor and reporter. His writing had a touch of poetry, which he delivered in that beautiful baritone. And he was such a cherished presence in our newsroom – wise and wickedly funny.”

Jeff Harris, vice president and news director of CBS 2, said in a statement: “Mike Parker is a legacy at WBBM-TV and throughout this market. Like many others in our industry, I knew Mike by reputation because he was considered one of the best journalists in the business. For 35 years, Chicagoland was the sole beneficiary of his craft and we are grateful for all he contributed to this station and our viewers.

“Colleagues in the CBS 2 newsroom continue to reminisce about Mike’s raspy voice, his generosity and how much he cared about the words he spoke on air and in the field. Mike Parker stands as an old-school example of what it means to be a reporter and reminds all of us in the newsroom the true importance of our jobs,” Harris said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement: “Mike Parker was a great journalist, talented writer and gifted storyteller. His work brought him from Chicago neighborhoods to presidential campaigns, the Vatican, and war-torn regions around the world in search of stories that would illuminate and inform. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike Parker’s family, friends, fans and all who are mourning his loss.”

Parker joined CBS 2 in 1980 as weekend news anchor and general assignment reporter. Except for a year he spent in New York at ABC-owned WABC (where he worked with his second wife, Mary Nissenson), he remained a prominent presence at CBS 2 before stepping down in 2016 as the station’s senior on-air personality.

“It’s been a fine, fun and exciting ride through the decades – but it’s time to get off the horse,” Parker told co-workers in announcing his retirement. In an exit interview with CBS 2 reporter Dave Savini, he said: “It is my belief that my role was to not only report the facts but report them in such way that it made for a compelling narrative — a story that would fascinate the viewer.”

Born Michael J. Fishel in Rock Island, Illinois, Parker was in high school when he got his first job in radio in 1959 at KSTT in Davenport, Iowa. A graduate of Los Angeles City College, he worked as a reporter and news director for KFI Radio in L.A. before he shifted to television as a news anchor and reporter at CBS-owned KNXT (now KCBS) in L.A.

A multiple Chicago Emmy Award winner, Parker was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2013.

He is survived by his wife, Marian Ambrose Parker, and three children, Beth DeBlois, Joseph Fishel and Claire Parker. Visitation and services will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Donnellan Funeral Home, 10525 S. Western Ave., Chicago.