Wendy Aiello first met Penny Parker when Parker was working at the Rocky Mountain News covering retail, tourism, restaurants and advertising. They became fast friends.
“She was smart and funny,” said Aiello, a public relations executive in Denver. “She made me laugh every time I talked to her. She truly loved being a reporter and enjoyed being in the thick of things in Denver.”
When Parker died Jan. 2, she was still writing about entertainment, restaurant and philanthropic happenings in the Denver metro area in her popular weekly column “Mile High Life” for Colorado Community Media.
“Penny helped connect our suburban readers to what was happening in the Denver metro area,” said Jerry Healey, Colorado Community Media publisher. “Her voice can never be replaced.”
Parker died in her Capitol Hill condominium at 12:30 p.m. Jan 2, exactly one month after her 62nd birthday. The cause of death has not been determined, her husband, Greg Henry, said.
“Penny loved the battle for a scoop, whether she was writing a business story about the ski industry or finding out about John Elway’s engagement,” Henry said. “Penny loved the ‘On the Town’ column and working at the Rocky. Leaving the Rocky left a void in her life she was never able to get back. But she loved connecting with her readers on Facebook and in person.”
Parker also is survived by her son, Mackenzie Parker Harden, 25, to whom she was devoted and who lives in New York. A family memorial and celebration of life will be held at an as-yet undetermined time, Henry said.
A longtime journalist known for her tenaciousness, humor and competitiveness, Parker was a features and business reporter at The Denver Post until the rival Rocky Mountain News hired her in 2000 to write “On the Town,” a column about the “famous and near-famous” — as Henry put it — in the Denver sports, business and entertainment worlds.
She covered major events such as the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the 2005 NBA All-Star Game, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2001 NHL Stanley Cup finals. She also garnered respect for her relentlessly thorough and determined business coverage.
“At the Rocky, Penny was our greatest nemesis, especially with her terrific ski coverage,” said Don Knox, former Denver Post and later, Rocky Mountain News, business editor, who competed against Parker at the height of Denver’s newspaper wars. “She was everywhere at a time when it seemed like every Colorado resort was up for sale or changing hands. What really stood out was her persistence — once she got her teeth into a ski story, she never let go, and that defined her among her generation of reporters.”
Bob Burdick, retired editor of the Rocky Mountain News, remembers Parker as an energetic and knowledgeable member of metro Denver’s business and journalism scenes.
“She seemed to know just about everyone and every place, and she could easily recite a list of potential venues — new or old — to try,” he said. “She will be missed.”
Parker also gained a large following, when after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she shared her experience through her column.
“She really struck a chord with readers because all of us had a personal connection to someone who fought cancer,” Henry said.
When the Rocky Mountain News closed in 2009, she moved back to the Denver Post as a business columnist until being laid off in 2012, Henry said.
Parker continued writing her “On the Town” column for the society website blacktie-colorado.com until 2014. This past year, Henry said, she worked in retail sales for Macy’s and Dillard’s with occasional freelance work in public relations, marketing and writing.
An avid Denver Broncos fan, Parker also loved her dogs, friends and playing golf and was passionate about cooking and dining out, her friend, Aiello, said.
In lieu of flowers, Parker’s family asks that donations be sent to her favorite charities: Sense of Security, www.senseofsecurity.org, which provides financial help to breast cancer patients; Denver Dumb Friends League, www.ddfl.org; or The First Tee of Denver, www.thefirstteeofdenver.com.
Once competitors but always friendly, Knox and Parker ended up working for The Denver Post together as columnists — he covering retail, she writing about general business.
“Penny never gave up on life’s work as a teller of stories ...,” Knox said. “She reveled in it, even though the business changed on all of us.”