Man who died in Hilton Head Cross Island car fire remembered as friendly, talented singer

achristnovich@beaufortgazette.comDecember 21, 2012 

The choir at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church will be a little quieter and Hilton Head Island's Reilley's Bar and Grill on Greenwood Drive will be a little emptier on Sundays. One of the men with a regular Monday-morning tee time at Eagle's Pointe will be missing from the group.

Daniel Eugene Parker Sr. of Hilton Head Island was the common denominator. He died Wednesday in a car fire on the Cross Island Parkway. He was 72.

An autopsy determined the cause of death was smoke inhalation, according to Beaufort County deputy coroner David Ott.

Depending on where he was, people called him "Danny," "Dan's Dad" or "Duffy," but no matter the activity, he was remembered as a friendly leader.

"When you have your golf groups, you always have one guy that's running the show " said Brent Carlson, manager at Eagle's Pointe Golf Club. Carlson isn't sure why, but everyone at the course called Parker "Duffy."

"He was mostly interested in getting to the first tee and making sure his regular group of guys were having a good time," Carlson said.

Parker was driving a 2012 Volkswagen for Diamond Transportation cab company just before 7 a.m. near the parkway toll booth when the vehicle caught fire, according to his son, Daniel Parker Jr. Attempts Friday to contact Diamond Transportation were unsuccessful, but Parker Jr. said his father worked there for about two years.

The fire likely started after Parker hit wooden debris in the westbound lane, according to Senior Trooper Bridget Wyant of the S.C. Highway Patrol. The debris likely flattened the tire and punctured the gas tank, causing the flames.

Wyant said witnesses saw Parker make a U-turn and drive back through the toll booth before he pulled over near the intersection of Palmetto Bay and Point Comfort roads. Some drivers saw flames at the car's rear and tried to alert him. One witness tried to get Parker out of the car, but the fire was too intense, Wyant said.

Parker's death silences a "mellow and very warm" voice, according to St. Francis choir member Carol Sullivan, who sat next to Parker on Wednesdays and Sundays for too many years to count.

"Danny was a wonderful, wonderful Irish tenor," Sullivan said. "He didn't read music, but I did, and I'd read to him when there was a note he didn't know. He had a good ear and he would really sing out."

He never needed a reason to burst into renditions of his favorite song, "O Danny Boy," Sullivan said.

He also always made reservations at Reilley's for an after-church meal with friends and to meet with Parker Jr., to watch football, Sullivan said.

"He's been going to Reilly's since he got here (in 1994)," his son said. Parker Sr. lived in Brooklyn, worked in the food and beverage industry most of his life and spent two years in the Army during the early 1960s. He had visited the golf courses on Hilton Head since the 1970s, his son said. It was his goal to move to the area.

Parker Sr. was also a third-degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, an Irish-Catholic fraternal organization, his son said.

"He was just a friendly, talkative guy," Parker Jr. said.

Related content

  1. Hilton Head car fire kills driver, Dec. 19, 2012
  2. Hilton Head car fire victim not yet identified, Dec. 20, 2012

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