LOVELAND, Ohio — Loveland School District posthumously honored a high school basketball coach who died from cancer during Thursday's homecoming parade by asking his wife, daughter and newborn son to take his place as grand marshal.
Darnell Parker was the head coach for the Loveland High School girls basketball team. He continued to coach after he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon and liver cancer in 2020, until he passed away over the summer. He was 44.
This is the first school year — and will be the first basketball season — without Parker.
"I think as time goes on you just ... start to realize how much of an impact someone has made," said Mike Broadwater, superintendent for Loveland School District.
Family, friends and coworkers said Parker was one of a kind, with a contagious smile and enthusiasm.
"He just embodies — we talk about care, respect and responsibility here at Loveland — he embodies all three of those and he will permeate through Loveland for years and years and years because of all of the great things he did for our kids," Broadwater said.
It's with this character and attitude Parker faced his cancer diagnosis.
"I spent the better part of almost 20-plus years in coaching at different levels of encouraging young people and kids to persevere, push through and control what you can control," Parker said in an interview with WCPO in 2020.
Since he passed away in July, the community has rallied around his wife, Samantha, who has found herself grieving her husband while facing the challenges that come with being a new mom.
"It was only a month difference between him passing and me delivering (our son) and it's been overwhelming," she said. "To know we have support everywhere that we go, it truly means a lot. I don't think we could get through it without everybody wrapping their arms around us."
Broadwater said the community has been great about recognizing everything Parker did for Loveland.
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