Lakeland community shows support for father of four killed in car crash

Family and friends held benefit car wash

LAKELAND, Fla. - Just two days before Christmas, the Lakeland community came out to help a family that suffered a tragic loss over the weekend.

Charlie Parker is one of two men who died in a head-on collision early Sunday morning.

All day Monday, his family and friends stood outside a gas station near the crash site in on US-98 North in Lakeland and urged drivers to stop for a car wash.

They're trying to scrounge up money to pay for Parker's final resting place.

"There are four kids now without a dad, so anything can help," said James Connell, Charlie's brother.

Connell said Parker's two loves were his kids and hunting. In fact, Sunday morning he was on his way back from Wal-Mart with walkie talkies to bring on a hunting trip he planned with his son the following day.

"He had their lunch boxes made for the next day, my son was in his overalls, his camouflage overalls, his orange shirt. He was ready and waiting on his daddy," said Paula Parker, Charlie's wife.

Parker never made it home.

According to investigators, he was a passenger in a car involved in a nasty head-on collision. He and the driver of the other car, Eric Russo, both died at the scene.

"He loved his kids. His kids were his everything," Paula said.

Dozens of Parker's friends -- and their kids -- pitched in to help with the benefit car wash. And generous strangers did their part.

"I had a dude hand me a 100 dollar bill earlier, another guy handed me a fifty, and most of the time they don't even want their vehicles washed," said Travis Taylor, Parker's friend.

Connell said right before the accident, Parker was able to finish Christmas shopping for his four kids he raised mostly on his own.

He's sure Christmas morning, he'll be looking down, watching.

"He was a great dad. I just wish i was half the man he was," he said.

If you would like to donate to Parker's family to pay for the funeral expenses, they've set up an account at MidFlorida Bank. Just ask to donate to the Charlie Parker Memorial Fund.

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