Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Widow at a loss without husband

• Steve Parkman dies in a crash of his home-built plane. His wife struggles to continue her education and raise 4 kids.

PATTY MACHELOR Citizen Staff Writer

Phyllis Parkman is struggling to face the future now that her husband, her ”love and support” for 28 years, has died in the crash of his airplane.

Steve Parkman, 51, died Friday west of Tucson near Ryan Field doing what he loved, flying a hand-crafted airplane.

Parkman 48, worries how she’ll feed and house their four children. Her two 11-year-old daughters have osteo genesis imperfecta, a genetic disease that causes brittle bones.

She is finding reassurance in the love of friends, who have rallied around her and have opened a bank account to help the family in whatever capacity it needs.

A memorial service for Mr. Parkman was set for today at 2 p.m. at Ajo Baptist Church, 5757 W. Ajo Way. At the service, the Parkmans will bid farewell to their trusting, funny and compassionate loved one.

The self-employed computer technician was killed trying to make an emergency landing at the general aviation field about 15 miles southwest of the city, authorities said. It was the plane’s first flight, and it developed trouble of an unknown kind, crashing minutes after takeoff. The cause is being investigated.

Mr. Parkman was an experienced pilot.

Since Parkman received word of the crash Friday morning, life has been surreal, she said.

”Where my heart used to be is empty,” she said yesterday from her home near South Kinney Road and West Ajo Way. ”Nobody could have asked for a better husband.”

The couple’s oldest son, 17-year-old Shawn, flew home from Navy boot camp in Illinois when he received word.

He shared a love of flying with his father and, they and 12-year-old Raymond built the plane.

Shawn Parkman is worried about his mother, but believes she’s strong.

”We can make it through this if we just keep going and remember the good things,” he said.

Parkman’s most recent memories of her husband include his support when she returned to school for a culinary arts degree.

Beth Hunter, coordinator of Women in Progress, met Parkman last semester when she enrolled in the program at Pima Community College. Hunter was touched to see how dedicated the Parkmans were to each other.

”They were just an exemplary couple,” she said, explaining it was rare to see a husband so dedicated.

For Parkman, it was back to school for the first time since the 1960s, when she graduated from high school.

”I don’t like driving at night, so he would take me there and then he would be there, right on time, to pick me up,” she said of her husband.

The night before he died, they celebrated her graduation from the course.

”He was very proud of me,” she said.

Next semester, she plans to work toward a college degree.

”I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem for this, but my husband was behind me,” she said. ”But now I don’t have him and I am scared to death.”

Through tears, Parkman said she is determined to finish school, especially for her children’s sake.

”I’ll try to take it one day at a time,” she said.

Jeanne Cozine, the nurse at Valencia Middle School where Parkman works part time in special-education classes, isn’t surprised to see people rally around this ”very loving” family.

”It’s not just me and it’s not just Valencia, it’s everyone who has seen this family in action,” Cozine said. ”Our hearts just go out to them and we want to help them.”

Through the local chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, Cozine hopes to get Parkman assistance toward her degree.

”It’s not a big grant, but it will help a little bit,” she said.

Parkman can hardly focus on such matters.

”He and I clicked from day one,” she said. ”It was the kind of fairy tale that never happens and did. It sure was nice while it lasted.”

Mr. Parkman will be cremated, and his ashes will be scattered around the airfield.

Phyllis Parkman said she isn’t sure when she will be ready to face that.

”I’m really having a hard time letting him go,” she said.

Donations to help the Parkman family can be made to the Phyllis Parkman and Children fund through any Bank One branch.

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