September 17, 2018
Irene Parker passed away peacefully after a very brief illness at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton on Thursday, September 17, 2018. She was 97-years-old.
Irene is predeceased by her husband, Edward J. Parker, her parents, George and Amalia Wargo, two brothers and sisters-in-law, her twin brother George and wife Freda Wargo, and William Walter and Alice Wargo. She is also predeceased by her sisters-in-law and brother-in-law Walter and Amelia Hertzman, and Geraldine Alston. She is survived by her loving and devoted niece Kathi Wargo-Adie who cared for her in her later years and husband John Adie and her two amazing great-nieces, Amber and Alexis Adie, great-nephew John B. Adie.
Irene first got her start in show business when she began taking dance lessons in Trenton with Johnny Toots. She then traveled to Burlington to study under John Potts. To further her dance career she journeyed to Philadelphia to dance with Pete Conlan and Al White and finally ended up in New York City to study dance with Jack Stanley. Meanwhile, she had started her dance school in the basement of her parents’ home in Roebling, New Jersey. Her lessons cost ten cents. As her reputation grew, she moved her teaching to Hamilton where she became one of the first dance schools in the Trenton area when she opened The Irene Parker Dance Studio in 1950. Her enrollment grew to 500 children each year.
Irene’s fiancé returned from World War II paralyzed from the waist down from a German sniper bullet that had lodged in his spine. Vowing to marry him anyway, Irene took the fight all the way to the bishop since the Catholic church had strict guidelines about marriage in that era. Even though she was never to have children of her own, Irene was blessed with thousands of children who have been instructed in the art of dance and nurtured by her throughout the years. She avidly supported military and veterans organizations throughout her life after her beloved husband succumbed to his injuries after returning home. In addition to donating her time and energy and raising money for countless charities, she has honored her husband’s memory by donating all of her yearly recital’s proceeds, first to the Joseph McNerney DAV and later to the American Legion Post #31, where a plaque proudly lays to honor her for 50 years of support.
Early on, Irene had a radio show in Trenton where the sounds of her tap dancing were aired for the area’s listening audience. She also hosted an amateur show at the old Greenwood Theater in Trenton. Over the years she has entertained for the Special Olympics, the Jerry Lewis Telethon for MDA, Deborah Hospital, for schools, parades, nursing homes and for charitable, civic and community organizations, too many to name, all free of charge. She had entertained onboard a Navy ship in Philadelphia and most notably every month for the troops at Fort Dix/Maguire AFB for over ten years. The dancers of The Irene Parker Dance Studio were also showcased on the legendary Steel Pier in Atlantic City on Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow’s stage for over 12 years straight.
Irene Parker was a charter member of The National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists, Professional Dance Teachers Association and also a life member of Dance Masters of Philadelphia. Irene enjoyed playing bingo later in life and belonged to the Rusling Hose Sunshiners and also to the Deutzville Senior Citizens. She was a member of St. Raphael/Holy Angels Parish.
Irene became a matriarch in the dancing community and a mentor to many of the more recent studio owners whose dance schools began emerging throughout the area. Irene Parker’s teachings have spanned generations of children, have influenced countless others and continues to nurture new students every year. She will be greatly missed by all who were touched by her talent and generosity.
** Irene Parker has made it her life’s mission to provide the art of dance to those who might not be able to afford it otherwise. She provided financial support to struggling families and kept her pricing very low to continue to provide this service to the community, sometimes at the risk of her own financial well-being. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in her memory to your favorite organization that supports our veterans or an organization that supports the arts that will continue this tradition. The staff at Irene Parker’s Legacy Dance Studio will strive to continue her Legacy.
A funeral mass will be held on Friday, September 21, 2018, 11 a.m. at St. Raphael's Church, 3500 South Broad Street in Hamilton. The family will receive guests from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Raphael's Church. Burial will follow in St. Mary's Cemetery.
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