James Parker Sroufe

Born March 23, 1941 in Pasco, Washington, James Parker Sroufe passed away in Bellevue, Washington on March 29, 2019.  Parker was the oldest of three sons of James Parker and Helen Marsh Sroufe.  He attended Lincoln High School in Seattle through his junior year in 1958 when his family moved to Anchorage, Alaska.  Parker graduated from Anchorage High as a Merit Scholar.

He was an entrepreneur from the start, establishing a pattern of adventurousness and hard work that took him through a diverse business career.  In Alaska, Parker worked construction jobs to finance his way through college.  He joined Theta Chi fraternity and graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Economics in 1963.  He served in the Army Reserves from 1965 to 1972.  Parker married his life partner, Evelyn, in 1965.

Parker worked for Boeing after graduation, but chafed at large company regimentation.  To escape it in 1970, he and a fraternity brother bought a tavern in Bellingham, beginning a roller-coaster lesson in running businesses.  Years later, he testified in federal court against the sellers, low-level Seattle mobsters guilty of tax evasion.  Parker concluded that his accountant was doing much better providing services than he was doing as an owner, so he and his partner sold the tavern and he embarked on a career in public accounting with what was then Peat, Marwick & Mitchell.

Public accounting launched Parker into a series of CFO and CEO positions in various industries—from Unico Properties (property development and management) where he oversaw the launch of the Fifth Avenue Theater, to Princess Cruises (cruise ships), to Attachmate Corporation (emulation software), to ESCA Corporation (software for large-scale power grids), to Ostex Corporation (biotech).  He enjoyed mentoring others and as a boss, sought to treat his subordinates and partners as if: “everyone is a volunteer”.

Parker co-founded a successful hedge fund, Webster Capital, in 1996, with partners in Chicago, capitalizing on his fascination—starting with his economics studies–with how financial markets work.  He closed the fund in 2000 to develop and pursue trading theories and strategies for his own account.

Parker was always an active part of his community, serving as Chair of the Seattle Children’s Home and as Chair of the Broadmoor Homeowner’s Association.  In 1987, he helped form the first University of Washington Economics Department Visiting Committee and became its first Chair.  A fervent believer in the power of economics to explain human behavior, he was an articulate advocate for the study of economics and recruited a strong committee to carry on the mission.  To promote diversity, he established a scholarship for disadvantaged students studying economics.

Parker was a lifelong learner, and soaked up history, art and culture (along with some good food and wine) on his travels, primarily to Europe.  Closer to home, he learned how to ride Western-style and herd, brand and vaccinate cattle from the hands at the Ponderosa Ranch in Eastern Oregon.  In his 70s, he began salsa dancing and cut a dashing figure at the Century Ballroom.

Parker was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008, but faced it with grace and courage.  His ranch experience had taught him how to “cowboy up” when confronted with tough problems.  He continued to travel and explore new places through 2018, before finally succumbing to complications from Parkinson’s.  He maintained his spirit and unique wit to the end.

Parker outlived his mother and father and one brother, Russell.  He is survived by his wife, Evelyn Cruz Sroufe, his brother, John Sroufe, and a multitude of family and friends.  Parker will be buried at Calvary Cemetery in Seattle.  Remembrances may be sent to the University of Washington School of Economics, J. Parker and Evelyn Cruz Sroufe Endowed Scholarship.

 

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