Doing Jackie proud

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Normie Kwong took the day off.

"Pretend you are ignorant of me being my highness or whatever I am," said Normie Kwong.

He came merely as The Living Legend, the China Clipper.

He had to. There would have been far too much protocol and too many Hon. this and Hon. that if he came as Alberta's lieutenant governor.

It was the first annual Jackie Parker Memorial yesterday at the Mill Woods Golf Course next door to the park named after the legendary Eskimo quarterback of the '50s.

The banquet allowed for laughter for Kwong to do what he couldn't do in his official position at Parker's funeral.

BROKE DOWN

He regaled the crowd with fun-loving Parker anecdotes. And, in the end, Kwong looked at the painting of Parker's locker stall behind him, featuring Parker's old No. 91 sweater, 1950s helmet, shoulder pads and high-topped boots, and broke down and allowed tears to fill his eyes.

"I wanted to support this event for the late, great Jackie Parker," he began.

Looking over his shoulder at the locker stall portrait when he first took to the podium, Kwong was able to laugh.

"His locker was always right beside mine. That's because we used to play cards together while we were getting dressed."

Kwong remembered the day Parker showed up to join the Eskimos.

"To see him in the dressing room, this skinny-legged guy who was supposed to be an All-American player ..."

Kwong wasn't impressed. Until he took the field.

"Then he was as great as everybody said he was. You always knew Jackie was going to do something to pull off a win.

"He was extremely versatile. He played offence, defence and kicked field goals when our kicker was hurt. I'll never forget the one he kicked at the end of a game in Calgary on Labour Day. It sat there on the crossbar for a minute before it fell over the right way for the win."

Kwong told of Parker being at his apartment first thing in the morning.

"He was always the first guy at my place, ready to play cards. I'd be in my pyjamas. To him it was another thing to win.

"Back in those days our practices started at 6 p.m. We left for Clarke Stadium at a quarter to six. We had it timed perfectly.

"I'm so happy to see everyone here. My memories of the Edmonton Eskimos in those days were very special.

"Jackie Parker was the greatest player to ever wear the green and gold ..." he said.

After applause and a pause, Kwong's timing was perfect: "who wasn't Oriental."

Kwong looked around at the painting again.

"That's exactly the way his locker looked," he said, his voice breaking.

Then, overcome by emotion, Kwong said thanks and stepped down.

There are hundreds of charity and celebrity golf tournaments every year.

But this one was special. It was the first annual event to keep Parker's memory alive, to raise money for the scholarship foundation set up in his name and the alumni association's new initiative to help former Eskimos following the tragic events which recently took a few from their number.

"Jackie would love this event," Don Getty, Parker's former backup quarterback who became Alberta's premier, told the crowd.

"Golf, barbecue, old football friends and having fun. Today is special for us. He was a big part of our lives and will always remain a big part of our memories.

"I know what Normie's schedule is like. I'm so glad he chose to be here this way. He was so close to Jack.

"I watched them play cards 10-12 hours straight and then at the end of the season, whoever was ahead had to take the other to a movie or something.

'HELP! HELP!'

"One year, I think, Jackie got his clothes cleaned at Kwong's Laundry. I did that once and my shirts came back with a note attacked "Help! Help! I'm prisoner in a Chinese laundry!"

Former Eskimos GM.Norm Kimball, arguably the greatest in CFL history, also praised Kwong for coming as 'Normie.'

"I'm sure Jackie would be saying 'He's my friend, he's not Honourable.' "


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