Douglas Alan Parker, a Howard County entrepreneur whose eSchoolnewsletter , an e-mail communication link, connected schools with the homes of their students, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at Four Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital Center. The Woodbine resident was 49.
The genesis of Mr. Parker's e-mail system came about in 2002 during the height of the sniper attacks in the Washington area, when worried parents were trying to call schools whose phones were constantly busy.
"We couldn't get to principals to find out what was going on," Mr. Parker, the father of four, told The Sun in a 2007 interview. "So I went to the [Lisbon Elementary School] principal and asked if I could put together a quick ... e-mail system."
As word spread of the successful system, two principals of nearby schools prevailed upon Mr. Parker to install the message system in their schools.
"I had no idea it would grow as quick as it did. It was originally intended just for my elementary school. It took off like wildfire," Mr. Parker said in the Sun interview last year.
Since 2002, Mr. Parker had owned and operated eSchool Systems LLC and was president of the company at his death.
"Doug created a product that is family driven and is a great avenue of communication between schools and parents," said Alyson R. Tommins , who is marketing and development manager for eSchool Systems LLC.
About 27,980 Howard County families subscribe to the service, which is used statewide and sponsored by community businesses.
"There are 72 schools in Howard County using eSchoolnewsletter," Patti Caplan, the school system's public information officer, said yesterday.
"When Doug set up the system with its sponsorship, we didn't have to pay anything for it. He did it because he thought it was something that was good for communication," Ms. Caplan said.
Mr. Parker told The Sun this year that his company was adding text messaging.
Parents "can give us their cell phone number so we can start building the database," he told the newspaper. "We're collecting the cell phone numbers now so that when it comes time to kick off the program we can text message those people and tell them the next step for signing up."
Mr. Parker was born in Johnstown, Pa., and moved with his family to Ellicott City in 1964.
He was a 1977 graduate of Howard High School and earned a bachelor's degree in manufacturing engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1982. In 1985, he earned a master's degree in business administration from the Johns Hopkins University.
From 1982 to 1988, he was a manufacturing supervisor at Westinghouse Electric Corp. In 1988, he was a consultant for Cooper & Lybrand when he left in 1990 to become a partner and consultant in Princeton Associates, a business consulting firm.
He was a stay-at-home father from 1994 to 2002, and returned to work when he established eSchool Systems LLC.
"He was a born leader that people wanted to follow. He was the guy who had all the great ideas," said Charles E. "Skid" Mullineaux, a boyhood friend and college roommate. "Even when we were kids, Doug always knew the perfect place to build a treehouse. He wasn't bossy, just someone people naturally followed."
Mr. Parker's world revolved around his children's schools and recreation council games.
"He had a 15-passenger van with which he transported kids to their games. Its license plate said 'Kid Taxi,'" Mr. Mullineaux said. "He always had two coolers on board, one with juice and the other filled with snacks, so the kids would have something to eat and drink."
Two years ago, Mr. Parker was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Mullineaux praised his friend's courage.
"You knew Doug was in pain, but he never complained. All the way to the end, he kept saying he was going to beat it. He was that positive," he said.
Ms. Caplan described him as "one of the kindest, most sincere, and generous people I've ever met. There's no way you could meet Doug Parker and not like him. He was that genuine."
Mr. Parker enjoyed coaching youth sports and was an avid Ravens fan. His musical tastes ranged from Ozzy Osbourne to Elvis.
"And he loved Corvettes," said his wife of 22 years, the former Carol Jean Soscia .
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, 3755 St. Paul St. in Ellicott City.
Also surviving are two sons, Douglas S. Parker and Charles N. Parker, both of Woodbine; two daughters, Lauriann Marie Parker and Alyssa J. Parker, both of Woodbine; his mother, Mary H. Parker of Ellicott City; and two brothers, Dave Parker of Harwood and Don Parker of Ophelia, Va.