View All Photos

Calvin and Myrtle Parker, 1927.

Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Parker, Calvin Harry (1869–1939) and Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) (1867–1934)

By Milton Hook

×

Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: October 1, 2020

Calvin and Myrtle Parker devoted 35 years to exceptionally effective service as missionaries in the South Pacific region.

Education and Early Service

Calvin Harry Parker, youngest of three children of Henry and Cordelia (Cadwell) Parker, was born on July 31, 1869, in Illinois.1 Henry Parker died of tuberculosis when Calvin was only five years old.2 Calvin was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist faith and attended Union College in Nebraska.3

On October 12, 1894, he married Myrtle Gilbereta Griffis at Pine Island, Minnesota. Myrtle was born in Neenah, Wisconsin, on June 16, 1867. She had taught in both public and church schools in Minnesota and engaged in Bible work at the Oakland City Mission in California. A week prior to the wedding, the Minnesota Conference issued a ministerial license to Calvin and the couple went on to serve for four years in Minnesota.4 Their only child, Ramona, was born in 1896.5

Calvin Parker was ordained to ministry on June 1, 1897.6 His labors with O. O. Bernstein that summer in Lake Benton led ten people to take “their stand to keep the commandments of God” and to the organization of a sixteen-member Sabbath School.7

Missionaries in Fiji

In August 1898 the Parker family embarked for Fiji, the start of thirty-five years of service in the South Pacific region.8 Calvin rapidly adjusted to island conditions, fearlessly sailing the mission cutter “Cina” in treacherous seas, sleeping in grass huts on no more than a plaited mat and eating boiled taro, an island staple that tasted like starchy paste with a rubbery texture.9 Myrtle, however, found the humidity so debilitating she sunk to the level of finding it difficult to sit up.10 Calvin lost weight. After two years in Fiji they were transferred to the bracing climate of Tasmania to foster their recovery.11

In Tasmania Parker and the conference president, Edward Hilliard, visited together among the small groups of believers and conducted meetings for them.12 Both Calvin and Myrtle were delegates at the 1901 Australasian Union Conference session in the Avondale Church, Cooranbong, New South Wales.13 Myrtle took a three-month course of health lectures by Dr. Lauretta Kress that was held in the Avondale Health Retreat immediately after the session.14

The Parker family returned to Fiji in 1902 and decided to settle at Lomaloma on Vanua Balavu Island in the Lau district. There was no ready accommodation so a friendly local allowed the family a hut bordering the beach. It had a thatch roof, reed walls and an earthen floor covered with grass mats.15 The humid climate allowed mildew to thrive and the stench of rotting fish in the mangroves was overwhelming. Myrtle started to conduct school at dawn for two hours in the hut with a few youngsters and Calvin taught a similar class in the evening but another mission group whipped them for attending. In the heat of the day Myrtle would cover her head with a wet towel so that the evaporation would give her some degree of cooling.16 They suffered these conditions for twelve months as Calvin built better premises nearby.17 In 1903 Parker organized a small church at Lomaloma.18 At the mission’s annual council he was proficient enough in the Fijian language to preach to the assembly.19

The Parkers transferred to Suva early in 1904. To familiarize himself with the people Calvin walked 130 kilometres along the Ra Coast but because of badly blistered feet he had to find a sail-boat to take him back to Suva.20 John Fulton, Parker’s fellow-missionary, was of the opinion that Calvin worked too hard.21

Fiji Mission Superintendent

In 1905 Parker was appointed as the superintendent of the entire Fiji Mission.22 It involved arduous and often dangerous travelling around the field. One of his first trips was to sail to the Lau district, bravely taking Myrtle and Ramona over the vast waters to visit the islands of Nayau, Vanua Vatu, Lakemba, Munia and Vanua Balavu.23

Parker then turned his attention to pioneering the Colo district, the mountainous inland of Viti Levu. He, with three nationals, walked 200 kilometres and preached in the evenings at each village. The tracks were steep. They had to swim most of the river crossings. Much of the journey Parker did barefoot because his shoes wore out. His considerable strength was tested but it was the means of opening the district for national missionaries to pioneer stations at key sites.24 Parker’s term as superintendent also saw the opening of the Buresala Training School on Ovalau Island and the establishment of the printing works at the school.25

The Parker family returned to Australia towards the end of 1909 and Calvin was elected as the president of the Victoria-Tasmania Conference. The move enabled Ramona to begin her academy years under better conditions. Parker continued as conference president through 1911,26 and then he was appointed to pioneer the New Hebrides group (now Vanuatu).

Pioneer Work in Vanuatu

Ramona remained in Australia to continue her education while Calvin and Myrtle embarked for Vanuatu via Norfolk Island on December 30, 1911.27 They lingered a few months on Norfolk Island to conduct meetings for the members. They were accompanied by nurses Harold and Clara Carr. Calvin had no desire to repeat the beach hut ordeal experienced at Lomaloma, so a pre-fabricated European-style home was shipped ahead of them to Vanuatu.28 The men arrived at Vila, Vanuatu, on June 10, 1912.29 Myrtle and Clara followed two months later when the home was completed.30

Within twelve months Parker found the tiny island of Atchin on the northeast edge of Malakula Island better suited for a permanent mission base. The house at Vila was rented and a dilapidated home on Atchin repaired.31 Soon after Parker built a small church and school.32

The missionaries, however, were in the eye of peril. On a nearby island two Frenchmen were murdered by the local natives33 and less than a year later the Carrs lost their infant son with bronchitis.34 Not long after this tragedy seven national missionaries of another faith were murdered on Malakula Island by a Big Nambus clan.35 Repeatedly, Parker bravely stood between parties at war to mediate, physically restraining the leading fighters on one occasion.36 Calvin and Myrtle persisted with trying to break prejudice, she conducting a little school and he giving simple medical treatments.37 The people quickly became fond of his “rub-medicine,” a solution he made from turpentine and kerosene for various ailments both real and imaginary.38

Central Polynesian Conference President

Early in 1916 the Parkers were appointed to return to Fiji, Calvin to be president of the newly-formed Central Polynesian Conference with the oversight of missions in Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia and Niue Island.39 Myrtle would serve as secretary of the Sabbath School and Young People’s Department.

For six years they fulfilled these roles40 and then ministered once again in Tasmania as respite from the tropics for twelve months in 1922-1923.

Final Years in the South Pacific

With their health fully restored the Parkers were appointed to resume island mission work in the early months of 1923.41 The term proved to be four years in Vanuatu and one year in Fiji.42 In Vanuatu Parker was warmly greeted when he visited his friends among the Big Nambus, one old former cannibal chief embracing him in a mountain village as a brother in Christ.43 There were times when Parker was once again called to exercise his negotiating skills to bring calm to fighting groups.44 He had not witnessed any baptisms during his pioneering days but in this second term he was encouraged with the fact that almost one hundred were baptized members of the mission and there were fourteen young islanders serving as missionaries among their own people.45 Ramona had completed her midwifery certificate and joined her parents in Vanuatu for medical work.46

Parker’s final years of ministry were spent as president of the South New South Wales Conference, 1929 and 1930,47 followed by a further term as superintendent of the Vanuatu field, 1931 through 1933.48

Contribution

In December 1933 Calvin and Myrtle returned to California. Myrtle’s health was poor and her strength faded. She passed away in Los Angeles on June 6, 1934, and was laid to rest in the vast Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale).49 On July 20, 1939, Calvin passed away in Puente, Los Angeles, and was laid to rest beside Myrtle.50 Ramona and her husband, Walter Langdon, also rest alongside.51

Calvin and Myrtle Parker were dedicated missionaries, practical, intelligent, compassionate and enduring under primitive and dangerous conditions. They were arguably one of the best missionary couples among the early pioneers for the Seventh-day Adventist mission in the South Pacific Islands. For that reason they were given repeated appointments, time out in Australia considered simply as rest and recuperation to prepare for further years in the island mission field.

Sources

“After eight and a half years…” Australasian Record, March 20, 1916.

“Brother Parker, in writing from Mua Levu…” Union Conference Record, October 15, 1903.

“Calvin Harry Parker.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=%7C1868-1870%7C0&self=calvinh.%7Cparker%7C0%7C0.

Carr, H[arold] E. “Atchin, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, December 8, 1913.

Carr, [Septimus W.] “Preparations for the Fiji Council.” Union Conference Record, July 8, 1907.

“December 30 was an interesting…” Australasian Record, January 8, 1912.

“Experiences in the New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, October 18, 1926.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “Calvin Harry Parker.” ARH, August 24, 1939.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “Good News from Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands.” Australasian Record, April 8, 1912.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) Parker.” Pacific Union Recorder, June 27, 1934.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “Our Work in Fiji.” Union Conference Record, December 15, 1905.

[Fulton, John E.] “Report of the Work in Fiji.” Union Conference Record, September 11, 1903.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “The Work in Fiji.” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1904.

Hilliard, E[dward]. “Tasmania.” Union Conference Record, July 1, 1901.

Hilliard, E[dward]. “The Hobart Convention.” Union Conference Record, July 1, 1900.

“List of Delegates.” Union Conference Record, July 17, 1901.

“Minnesota Conference Proceedings.” ARH, July 3, 1894.

“Minnesota Conference Proceedings.” ARH, June 15, 1897.

“Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) Parker.” Find A Grave, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/151168156/myrtle-gilbereta-parker.

“Our Work and Workers.” Signs of the Times, September 9, 1897.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Atchin, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, September 15, 1913.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Atchin, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, April 12, 1915.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “A Warm Reception by the Big Nambus People.” Australasian Record, February 18, 1924.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Dedication of the Press Building in Fiji.” Union Conference Record, April 27, 1908.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Fiji.” Union Conference Record, April 15, 1904.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “From Fiji.” Union Conference Record, March 25, 1907.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Good News from Fiji.” Union Conference Record, August 20, 1906.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “In the New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, August 5, 1912.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, September 9, 1912.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, August 18, 1913.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “New Hebrides Mission,” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, October 18, 1915.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Open Doors in Fiji.” Union Conference Record, June 24, 1907.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “Suva, Fiji.” ARH, vol. 75, no. 46, November 15, 1898.

Parker, C[alvin] H. “The New Hebrides.” Missionary Leader, March 1916.

Parker, C[alvin] H. and M[yrtle] G. Parker. “Atchin, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, January 12, 1914.

Parker, C[alvin] H. and M[yrtle G.] “Atchin, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, April 6, 1914.

Parker, C[alvin] H. and M[yrtle] G. Parker. “The Work in Fiji.” Union Conference Record, October 15, 1902.

Parker, Myrtle to G[eorge] A. Irwin, [ca. September 1902], Ellen G. White Estate, Avondale University College, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

“Pastor C.H. Parker, who has been…” Australasian Record, May 14, 1923.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1904-1933.

“The Closing Meeting.” Union Conference Record, August 1, 1901.

Turner, W. G[ordon]. “Secretary’s Report.” Australasian Record, September 27, 1926.

“We have been glad to send…” Australasian Record, August 18, 1924.

Wood, J.G. “Henry M. Parker.” ARH, October 13, 1874.

“Union Conference Proceedings.” Union Conference Record, July 31, 1901.

Notes

  1. “Calvin Harry Parker,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed March 16, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=%7C1868-1870%7C0&self=calvinh.%7Cparker%7C0%7C0.

  2. J.G. Wood, “Henry M. Parker,” ARH, October 13, 1874, 127.

  3. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Calvin Harry Parker,” ARH, August 24, 1939, 22.

  4. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) Parker,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 27, 1934, 5; “Minnesota Conference Proceedings,” ARH, July 3, 1894, 427.

  5. “Calvin Harry Parker,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed March 16, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=%7C1868-1870%7C0&self=calvinh.%7Cparker%7C0%7C0.

  6. “Minnesota Conference Proceedings,” ARH, June 15, 1897, 381.

  7. “Our Work and Workers,” Signs of the Times, September 9, 1897, 11.

  8. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Calvin Harry Parker,” ARH, August 24, 1939, 22.

  9. C[alvin] H. Parker, “Suva, Fiji,” ARH, November 15, 1898, 739.

  10. “The Closing Meeting,” Union Conference Record, August 1, 1901, 109.

  11. E[dward] Hilliard, “The Hobart Convention,” Union Conference Record, July 1, 1900, 12.

  12. E[dward] Hilliard, “Tasmania,” Union Conference Record, July 1, 1901, 13.

  13. “List of Delegates,” Union Conference Record, July 17, 1901, [1].

  14. “Union Conference Proceedings,” Union Conference Record, July 31, 1901, 93-96.

  15. C[alvin] H. Parker and M[yrtle] G. Parker, “The Work in Fiji,” Union Conference Record, October 15, 1902, 3-4.

  16. Myrtle Parker to G[eorge] A. Irwin, [ca. September 1902], Ellen G. White Estate, Avondale University College, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  17. [John E. Fulton], “Report of the Work in Fiji,” Union Conference Record, September 11, 1903, 5-7.

  18. “Brother Parker, in writing from Mua Levu…” Union Conference Record, October 15, 1903, 7.

  19. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “The Work in Fiji,” Union Conference Record, January 1, 1904, 3.

  20. C[alvin] H. Parker, “Fiji,” Union Conference Record, April 15, 1904, 3.

  21. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Our Work in Fiji,” Union Conference Record, December 15, 1905, 2.

  22. “Fiji Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1906), 69.

  23. C[alvin] H. Parker, “Good News from Fiji,” Union Conference Record, August 20, 1906, 6-7.

  24. C[alvin] H. Parker, “From Fiji,” Union Conference Record, March 25, 1907, 4-5; C[alvin] H. Parker, “Open Doors in Fiji,” Union Conference Record, June 24, 1907, 2-3.

  25. [Septimus W.] Carr, “Preparations for the Fiji Council,” Union Conference Record, July 8, 1907, 3; C[alvin] H. Parker, “Dedication of the Press Building at Buresala,” Union Conference Record, April 27, 1908, 2-3.

  26. E.g., “Victoria-Tasmania Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1910), 96.

  27. “December 30 was an interesting…” Australasian Record, January 8, 1912, 8.

  28. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Good News from Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands,” Australasian Record, April 8, 1912, 8.

  29. C[alvin] H. Parker, “In the New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, August 5, 1912, 5.

  30. C[alvin] H. Parker, “New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, September 9, 1912, 3.

  31. C[alvin] H. Parker, “New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, August 18, 1913, 3.

  32. C[alvin] H. Parker and M[yrtle] G. Parker, “Atchin, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, January 12, 1914, 4.

  33. C[alvin] H. Parker, “Atchin, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, September 15, 1913, 2-3.

  34. H[arold] E. Carr, “Atchin, New Hebrides, “Atchin, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, December 8, 1913, 3.

  35. C[alvin] H. Parker and M[yrtle G.] Parker, “Atchin, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, April 6, 1914, 4.

  36. C[alvin] H. Parker, “Atchin, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, April 12, 1915, 3-4; C[alvin] H. Parker, “New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, October 18, 1915, 3-4.

  37. C[alvin] H. Parker, “New Hebrides Mission, Australasian Record, September 28, 1914, 46-48.

  38. C[alvin] H. Parker, “The New Hebrides,” Missionary Leader, March 1916, 15-16.

  39. “After eight and a half years…” Australasian Record, March 20, 1916, 8.

  40. E.g., “Central Polynesian Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1917), 143-144.

  41. “Pastor C.H. Parker, who has been…” Australasian Record, May 14, 1923, 8.

  42. See “New Hebrides Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926), 207, and yearbooks listings for surrounding years, and “Fiji Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1928), 236.

  43. C[alvin] H. Parker, “A Warm Reception by the Big Nambus People,” Australasian Record, February 18, 1924, 4.

  44. “Experiences in the New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, October 18, 1926, 10-11.

  45. W. G[ordon] Turner, “Secretary’s Report,” Australasian Record, September 27, 1926, [1]-4.

  46. “We have been glad to send…” Australasian Record, August 18, 1924, 8.

  47. E.g., “South New South Wales Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1930), 126.

  48. E.g., “New Hebrides Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1933), 72.

  49. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) Parker,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 27, 1934, 5.

  50. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “Calvin Harry Parker,” ARH, August 24, 1939, 22.

  51. “Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) Parker,” Find A Grave, 2020, accessed March 27, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/151168156/myrtle-gilbereta/parker.

×

Hook, Milton. "Parker, Calvin Harry (1869–1939) and Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) (1867–1934)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. October 01, 2020. Accessed January 31, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B9XV.

Hook, Milton. "Parker, Calvin Harry (1869–1939) and Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) (1867–1934)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. October 01, 2020. Date of access January 31, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B9XV.

Hook, Milton (2020, October 01). Parker, Calvin Harry (1869–1939) and Myrtle Gilbereta (Griffis) (1867–1934). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 31, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B9XV.