Vintner and entertainer Fess E. Parker, Jr. died March 18th, 2010, at his home in the Santa Ynez Valley. Mr. Parker was 85 years old. His extended family was by his side.
Born in Fort Worth, TX and raised in San Angelo, Fess served in the United States Navy during WWII and then returned home to Texas to graduate from the University of Texas-Austin in 1950. He was honored as a distinguished alum of the university in 1969.
A desire to act took Fess to California in the early 50’s where hard work and great good fortune led him to be cast in Walt Disney’s “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” co-starring the late Buddy Ebsen. While under personal contract to Walt Disney, Fess made numerous pictures for the studio including the prequel “Davy Crockett and the River Boat Pirates” as well as The Great Locomotive Chase” and “Smoky.”
A successful television career in the 1960’s followed with NBC’s long running “Daniel Boone” show co-starring his friend and neighbor Ed Ames.
The early 70’s found Fess eager to explore the business world as a real estate developer in Santa Barbara, CA. The Fess Parker Doubletree Resort, just across from the Santa Barbara beach opened in 1985. It is one of the most successful hotels on the Santa Barbara waterfront. A 150 room luxury hotel is also in the final stages of planning on an adjacent piece of beach front property. It was not without controversy with regard to its environmental impact. Later he was chided for his decision to sell property in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country to hotel developers; the deal eventually fell through.
In 1989 Fess and his family turned an interest in fine wine into an adventure now over 20 years in the making. The Fess Parker Winery is a highly regarded and popular destination on the Foxen Canyon wine trail in Los Olivos, CA. The Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Spa, also in Los Olivos, is a luxurious destination accommodation when staying in Santa Barbara wine country. The family also farms over 300 acres of vineyard in the Santa Ynez valley. Creating a successful business with his family was one of Fess’ proudest achievements. Son Eli Parker is the executive winemaker at the winery.
Fess was a hard nosed businessman and always stood his ground, all six-foot six of it, when he thought he was right. But he also had a softer side. On many weekends he could be found in a corner of his tasting room, signing bottles of Fess Parker wine for his fans; he even sold miniature “coonskin caps” that would decorate and fit over the top of his wine bottles.
Fess and his wife Marcella celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January of 2010. Their son Eli and daughter Ashley, as well as 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild spent a great deal of time with Fess in his final months and weeks.
The Parker family will host a memorial tribute to Fess Parker in the rotunda at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort on March 26th at 2:00 PM for friends and colleagues. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to Direct Relief International (www.directrelief.org).
A detailed obituary can be found at the L.A. Times web site.
The Fess Parker Winery wines are available locally at Gomer’s, Lukas Liquor, Royal Liquors, Riverside Red-X and Vino Bello.