BILLINGS - To nobody's surprise, family members billed Bruce Parker's memorial service on Tuesday as "Game Day." His program read: Countdown to Kickoff.
And not coincidentally, it took place on the Herb Klindt Field artificial turf that Parker himself was instrumental in funding at Rocky Mountain College.
The outdoor setting was grand enough on a warm morning to reflect Parker's outsized personality with roughly a thousand friends, family members, coaches and colleagues turning out; a testament to how he was both revered and respected among highways and back roads of Montana.
Rocky men's basketball coach Billy Dreikosen brought a bottle of Mountain Dew -- Parker's go-to beverage -- and opened the "pregame prayer" with a toast to the Hall of Fame A.D.
Shortly after, Parker was inducted to Rocky's Athletic Hall of Fame, seemingly one of the few in which he wasn't already a member. Bears athletic director Jeff Malby presented a plaque to Parker's wife Lisa, and sons Brett and Ryan on the stage set on the near 50-yard sideline.
Longtime friend and School District 2 superintendent Greg Upham, like many others, praised Lisa as the glue in her husband's daily routine throughout their decades together.
"I'm going to pick an MVP today and it's not going to be Bruce. It's going to be Mrs. Parker," Upham said.
Montana State's longtime radio voice, Dean Alexander, recalled a road trip when Parker was an assistant A.D. for the Bobcats. The trip was to Reno. Parker wanted to make sure everybody on staff knew about the $5 steak deal at a local restaurant, Alexander said. When they all arrived, everybody ordered steak -- except Parker, who went with chicken cordon bleu.
Former Carroll College head football coach Mike Van Diest enjoyed a run of six national championships with Parker by his side as A.D. with the Saints.
"You'd walk into his office and if Lisa wasn't there, he'd open his drawers and there would be Hershey Bars up in the corner," Van Diest recalled with a laugh after Tuesday's service. "He'd make Jonesy go for a Taco Bell run in the afternoon."
"He and Lisa were always there. Whether it was the Saints Athletic Auction, Christmas party for the coaches, (or) getting ready to get charters for the national championship game, Bruce knew what to do and it was just rolling up your sleeves and working hard."
That was Parker's method of operation and a big reason he was named Frontier Conference Athletic Director of the Year nine times.
Following Tuesday's celebration, friends were invited to a "tailgate party" in the east parking lot. Naturally, two of Parker's all-time favorite menu items were served: Mountain Dew and tacos.