Willard and Nancy Parksion lives have centered around the Central Valley since they took their first breaths. They were born, raised, met, and married in Madera, before relocating to Raymond 40 years ago. They have now been recognized by the community they have called home for decades as this year’s Raymond Parade grand marshals. They were surprised when they got the call from Robert Casaraung with the news.
“This is the greatest honor Raymond can give,” Willard and Nancy’s daughter, Dawnette said. “I think it’s fantastic.”
“They have been a big part of this community for a long time,” Judy Leonard, parade organizer explained. “They have contributed to the community, raised a family here, were involved in school activities when their children were young, and now have grandchildren attending school here.”
It was mid 1970s when the couple left Madera city life for Raymond country living.
“Willard worked for Raymond Granite Company as a wire sawyer,” Nancy explained, “and he was tired of commuting, so we found a little fixer-upper for $10,000 here.”
Nancy then became the commuter, traveling to Madera for 30 years, working in the medical field as an office manager, and selling real estate.
After working with Raymond Granite for 16 years, Willard went on to work with the Madera County Road Department for another seven, before retiring at age 50. But retirement didn’t sit well with Willard, so the couple began flipping houses in both the Madera and Raymond area, purchasing fixer-uppers, making needed repairs, and reselling the homes at a profit.
“Willard didn’t really retire,” Nancy said, “he just became a super smart handyman. We bought one house that the Raymond School District owned for $4,000,” Nancy said. “We fixed it up, rented it to Buzzy Harlow, and he bought it in 1995.”
These days, Willard and Nancy, 74 and 72 respectively, are truly retired. They spend their time with family, or puttering in the garden. With their children, J.R., 55 and Dawnette, 44, living just across the bridge, spending time with grandchildren tops their leisure list. Occasionally, the couple walks down the road to Casaurang’s bar, the Hills Pride Inn, but mostly, they’re happy to be homebodies.
The couple have a dune buggy, motorcycle and trailer, and twice a year, throw a spring fling and fall party for family and friends along the Chowchilla River. Last year, they participated in the Raymond Parade, driving an old truck - a 1964 Ford six-pack - with their three granddaughters. They also have one great granddaughter.
It’s truly a family affair. Dawnette and her family returned to Raymond a year ago, after living in the Fresno Tower District for 20 years. J.R. very recently returned after living in the Central Coast for 15 years. All but one granddaughter, who lives in Madera, call Raymond home.
“We’re taking over the road,” Dawnette said, laughing. “We’re like the Waltons.”
“We actually live at the end of the road on 13 acres,” Nancy continued. “There’s granite company property behind us so no one can build close to us. We like the quiet and peacefulness. Raymond is a very small town, and we have lots and lots of friends here. We love the camaraderie and think it’s the greatest place in the world.”
“The Parksions have contributed so much to Raymond,” Casaurang said. “If someone is down and out, they’re always there to help. When my father passed away, they were always checking in on my mom. They’ve lived here a long, long time ... and now it’s their time to be grand marshals.”
The 29th annual Raymond Parade will take place high noon, Saturday, April 18. There will be crafts, a food fair and swap meet from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., a Karaoke contest (entry fee $10), and raffle drawings.
Details: (559) 689-3341.