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Benjamin W. Parker, a Harvard custodian whose kind manner toward people and animals earned him the nickname "Gentle Ben" during his 45-year tenure at Harvard, died last Sunday of stomach cancer.
Friends of the longtime custodian yesterday praised him for his character and his dedication to Harvard, for which he received several merit commendations--including an award in recognition of a 15-year period during which Parker did not miss a single day of work.
"He was a very gentle person who was very much concerned with being loyal to an institution which he truly loved," said Associate Dean of First-Year Students W.C. Burriss Young '55, who was a friend of Parker. Young said that Parker "adored" Harvard and cherished the letter he received from President Derek C. Bok when he retired.
Even after his retirement, Parker returned to Harvard every day to socialize, said Alan C. Edwards, one of Parker's supervisors. He said that Parker came to Harvard during the day to visit and then worked nights at a part-time job in Harvard Square.
"He cherished his Harvard career and his Harvard friends," said Edwards. "Harvard was his life."
"Ben was everyone's grandfather," said Paul A. Regan, the Harvard manager for custodial services.
Joseph A. Dussault, who served as Parker's supervisor for 16 years, said that his death came at the most meaningful time of the year for him.
"He was very dedicated to Commencement. He always looked forward to it," Dussault said. "It goes along with his life."
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