NEW PORT RICHEY — After a lifetime in the tough garbage collection business, John David Parker had been planning his retirement. This year, he figured.
J.D. Parker & Sons celebrated the company's 60th anniversary last year. John and his sons, Jamey and Dave, posed proudly with one of their trucks for a 2009 story in the St. Petersburg Times about the oldest garbage franchise in Pasco County.
"Our name is on the side of the truck,'' the father said, "so we take pride in that.''
He had hauled garbage since boyhood, working closely with his father, J.H. Parker. Even as he neared the end of his career, he still didn't shy away from heavy lifting.
Which is why he came to be working just before midnight Thursday at the company compound on U.S. 19, just north of Main Street in New Port Richey. He was underneath a 2001 International garbage truck, performing maintenance. For some reason, police said later, it rolled forward and crushed Parker. He died on the floor of the garage at age 68.
Family members, including his wife, Donna, declined to comment Friday, except to say they appreciated everybody's concern.
John Gallagher has been Pasco County administrator since 1982. He grew up in New Port Richey and has known the Parkers for decades. "I even knew the grandfather when I was a youngster,'' he said Friday morning. "I can still see his bib-top dungarees.''
As for J.D., called Dave by his friends, Gallagher said this: "Extremely and refreshingly honest.''
J.D. Parker & Sons began in 1949 almost by accident. J.H. Parker was taking trash to the dump when a couple of neighbors paid him a quarter to haul their trash too. Then another neighbor did the same, then another. Eventually, nobody even needed to ask. If Parker drove down the street and saw a garbage can with a quarter taped to it, he picked it up.
By the early 1970s, the company had grown to 20 trucks and 50 employees. When J.H.'s health began to decline, John David took over. He had graduated from Gulf High School in 1960 and served three years in the Navy. He decided to sell part of the company and concentrate on residential pickup in the Jasmine Lakes area. J.D. Parker & Sons now has about 10,000 customers and 10 trucks.
Their garbage went uncollected Friday. The phones at the company's office went directly to their answering machine: "Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control," the recording said, there would be no pickup.