FRIENDS REUNITED: Jon Parkes, right, with friend Kash ‘The Flash’ Gill during a Roots Rock Reggae event at Handsworth Library in 2015
WHEN JONATHAN Parkes was born on 9 April 1917 beer was just over a penny a pint and a bottle of scotch would set you back 45 pence.
A century later and Parkes puts his long life down to a daily tot of his favourite whisky, plus the odd glass of Guinness or Dragon stout.
Having just enjoyed his 100th birthday, Parkes proved he still knows how to party after celebrating into the early hours with more than 200 friends at the Cap Centre in Smethwick. Special guests included his old friend former four-time world kick-boxing champion Kath ‘The Flash’ Gill.
Born in Fair Prospect, Portland, Jamaica, three years after the start of the First World War, Parkes is the only surviving sibling of two sisters and three brothers. His father Kalem Parkes, was a fisherman and farmer and was of both African and Scottish descent, as was Jonathan's mother Caroline.
As a young man Parkes worked as a cook for the Moncrieff family on the Caymanas plantation in the parish of St. Catherine.
He left behind his beloved Jamaica in 1955 to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart Esme Lancaster who he had married in 1953 at St Andrew’s Church on the Caymanas Estate.
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: Jonathan Parkes, far right, beside 'adopted' daughter Delores Pinkney, and nursing home staff Karen Handley, clinical lead, far left; Lorna Bennett, senior supervisor; Andrew Beard, general manager, and family friend Robert Richardson
They settled in Handsworth, Birmingham where Parkes, always a staunch Labour supporter, worked as a foundry man before becoming a fabricator at Truflow Ltd, from where he retired at 65.
Sadly the marriage didn’t last and they divorced in the late 70s; Esme, a respected social worker who died in 2009, was awarded the MBE in 2000 for her services to the community.
Parkes, a popular figure and dapper dresser, used to love meeting friends and dancing every Sunday night at the FCF Club in Soho Hill. He had many hobbies including photography, gardening, poetry and vintage cars.
Delores Pinkney, whose own parents Mavis and Rudolph Vincent Pinkney knew Parkes in Jamaica, told The Voice:
“Jon was still boogying at the age of 97, but sadly a stroke robbed him of his independence. Until then he had been a real party animal, dancing at the club every week.”
Parkes now lives at Melville House Nursing Home in Edgbaston and he’s believed to be the home’s first male resident to reach his century.
Parke’s only son Stanley died in Jamaica some time ago and he has lost touch with his grand daughter Millicent Parkes-Johnson who is believed to be living in America.
He has been adopted by the Pinkney family and Delores, who runs the Dojo Community Project with her brother Hector Pinkney, calls in on him regularly. She said:
“Jon sees me as a daughter and I see him as a daddy since my own beloved father died. He’s been part of our family since we were children.
“He’s a very special person to us all – we love him for his calmness and his uniqueness, yet he always wants to be there when something is happening. He’s always joined in our annual Roots Rock Reggae black history events at Handsworth Library and loved to get up and dance. He has a great zest for life.
“I’d like to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who took part in Jon’s 100th birthday party – it was a truly special night to remember.”
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