July 24, 1932 – June 1, 2016
Our mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Ethel Parkin Akin was reunited with her husband Bob and other happy family members on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. She passed away at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, Mont. For the first time in over 32 years, if you could ask her how she is doing, her usual answer of “I’m fine” will actually be true!
Ethel was the youngest of 10 children born to Don Carlos Parkin and the seventh to Ethel Eliza Christensen, arriving July 24, 1932, in Cowley, Wyo. At 11 pounds, 14 ounces and sporting two bottom teeth, she never really looked like a newborn. The family moved to Basin 10 months later when Don became sheriff of Big Horn County, and Ethel enjoyed using the women’s cell as her playroom when it was vacant. She remembers excitedly watching gunfights, and when she was 5, two women inmates talking her into setting them free! Her ability to easily ride a tricycle at age 2-1/2 and the hours she spent doing summersaults and cartwheels in the yard while she wore roller skates inspired her father to teach her other acrobatic tricks. By age 5 she was performing in talent shows all over the Big Horn Basin (and winning!). Her parents sacrificed for dance lessons which enhanced her performances, and it was only her mother’s refusal that kept a local man from sending her for a Hollywood audition when she was just 13. After Ethel’s marriage, she helped Frances Preator run a very successful dance studio.
Ethel had the opportunity to take piano lessons and by sixth grade she was the ward organist, which marked the beginning of a lifetime of her sharing her gift for music at church meetings, weddings, funerals and other events. Her children recall her playing her favorite vinyl records on the console stereo much of each day.
Schoolwork came easily to Ethel. She had near perfect attendance despite suffering five broken arms in the space of two years, was named “Eighth Grade Girl” and became the salutatorian of her graduating class. She enjoyed clerical classes in particular, and set a school typing record of 126 wpm. Ethel earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wyoming, but never attended, instead choosing marriage to her high school sweetheart Robert George Akin on Dec. 23, 1950. They welcomed their first daughter, Patti, in September of 1952, twins Joni and Juli in February of 1955 and son Larry in April of 1956, completing their family. Bob was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1959 and the family was sealed in the Idaho Falls Temple in 1961.
Bob and Ethel raised their children in the turbulent 1960s, and though the family was not free of challenges, Ethel seemed to be the “Aunt Bea” of her family. She kept an immaculate home, took her children to church, made sure they were neatly dressed and expected them to do well in school, to respect their parents and to be good citizens. Ethel had a tasty meal on the table each evening and found great satisfaction when others enjoyed the food she prepared. Though she worked alongside Bob at Tri-County Telephone for many years, she was always at home when the children were there and her children remember her being at every one of their activities. She truly loved her family.
Ethel loved living and wanted to make things fun! She had a circle of life long friends with whom she played bridge and others with whom she bowled. She loved to entertain, travel, create family events with lots of food and games and throw big parties. Perhaps it was her reaction to a frugal childhood in which her paper dolls were cut outs from catalogs, or the fact that she and Bob married with just $14 between the two of them, but she loved to SPEND, especially on others. Many family members fondly remember the huge Christmas Eve parties, with ALL of the decorations and ALL of the food and ALL of the gifts….
Ethel never wanted to inconvenience anyone else, though she never seemed to mind being inconvenienced herself. She cared for her mother along with doing the household duties after her mother’s stroke when Ethel was in the 10th grade, and later cared for her in her home when her own children were young. She happily cared for her grandchildren whenever called upon to do so and loved sharing gifts of food with any who were in need.
Ethel was always punctual and well prepared for upcoming obligations and activities. She was well thought of in the community. As family members were added to the family, she treated them as her own. Ethel was a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and served in many callings. Though poor health and pain were constant companions for much of her later life she never complained even when she lost the ability to do nearly EVERYTHING.
Ethel loved music, Neal Diamond, watching shows like “Fantasy Island”, “The Love Boat”, and “Lawrence Welk”, motorcycle riding, shopping trips to Billings, keeping her husband in line, and anything with sugar in it. She seemed to have at least 12 lives, outlived every prediction of her passing, and it was only with the greatest reluctance that she finally shed her worn out, broken body and moved on to be with those who had gone before. We will miss her face ‘lighting up’ when she sees us but are so grateful she is finally free of disability and pain!
Waiting to greet Ethel on the other side was her husband, Bob Akin; a grandson, Kory Lamont; parents Don and Ethel Parkin; half brothers LaFayette Don Parkin, John Owen Parkin and Henry William Parkin; and siblings LaRue C. P. Johnston, Wayne Carlos Parkin, Gladys Argean P. Johnston, Vivian Joy P. Alexander, and Harold Jay Parkin. Ethel is survived by her sister Donna Schmidt of Fort Hall, Idaho; children Patti (David) Scheveck, Laurel, Montana; Juli (Dode) Harrison, Basin, Wyoming; Joni (Charlie) Bender, Billings, Montana; and Larry (Maurine) Akin, Powell, Wyoming; 23 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 10, 2016 at the LDS Church between Greybull and Basin, 400 US Highway 20 S. Interment will be at Mount View Cemetery, Basin, Wyo. All are invited to attend a celebration of Ethel’s life at Washington Park in Basin following the services! The family would like to thank all who cared for Ethel in the final years of her life, particularly the Bonnie Bluejacket Nursing Home, and the Billings Health and Rehabilitation Center.