Charlye Parker poses with a framed photo of Garth Brooks and KXA radio personalities Stitch Mitchell and Anita Moffett. (Provided photo)

Charlye Parker poses with a framed photo of Garth Brooks and KXA radio personalities Stitch Mitchell and Anita Moffett. (Provided photo)

36 hours after final show, Everett radio host Charlye Parker, 80, dies

When Parker got into radio, she was a rarity: a woman in a DJ booth. For the past 12 years, she hosted weekend country music shows at KXA.

EVERETT — When KXA DJ Charlye Parker learned of her terminal diagnosis, she decided to go on her own terms.

During her final KXA Radio show on June 14, she picked the tunes for her own requiem.

Parker, 80, died in her sleep 36 hours later, following a recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

The last song she chose for her listeners was “My List” by Toby Keith, morning host Stitch Mitchell said.

The song’s refrain goes:

I cross ‘em off as I get ‘em done

But when the sun is settled

There’s still more than a few things left

I haven’t got to yet.

Parker grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, in the 1950s.

When she graduated from high school, the career advice she got was to be a secretary, not a DJ, according to a profile on KXA’s affiliated news website, The Everett Post.

But in 1973, when virtually no other women worked in radio, a close friend dragged her into KTRC, a small radio station in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mitchell said.

Program directors told her the key to success was being sexy.

“Nobody would accept anybody trying to be sexy, trying to be sweet, trying to be cute, ” she said in an interview with Fox 13, the day after her final show. “So when you just become you, now you’re OK. Now you’re OK.”

In the 1970s, a photojournalism assignment for the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association made her move to the Pacific Northwest.

Her half-century career sent her from New Mexico (Santa Fe’s KTRC and Albuquerque’s KRZY) to California (KHAY in Ventura) and eventually to Everett (KWYZ and KXA).

When she retired, she realized her radio career had become her life. Parker, who lived in Sedro-Woolley, discovered KXA. The country music station has 90,000 weekly listeners, Mitchell said.

Parker felt like radio was calling her back.

“Oh, my God, I need to be a part of this community,” Mitchell recalled Parker telling him.

For 12 years, she drove down to Everett every Saturday and Sunday for her 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. shows.

This past Memorial Day, her favorite holiday, she went to the doctor for what she thought was an infection, Mitchell said.

It was pancreatic cancer.

Her radio coworkers knew just how to cheer her up.

They suggested she come in for one last show.

“Why don’t we have a farewell party for you? Because what we do for a living. You don’t normally get the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you,” Mitchell said. “And I could hear her click when we were talking on the phone like, ‘I would very much love to do that.’”

Nestled into a blanket knitted by a friend, she came down to the chilly studio one last time.

Fans, friends and former colleagues — all overlapping categories — poured their love into messages and calls. Between songs, she accepted compliments, joked about her life and shared her diagnosis.

“Everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve gotten from radio,” Parker said. “And now here I’m getting ready to die, and I’m not afraid.”

Mitchell thought that was more content than he’d seen her in 12 years.

Anita Moffett, 55, was one of Parker’s colleagues.

Moffett was in disbelief when Parker first introduced herself.

“You can’t be her,” Moffett told Parker. “Because to me, Charlye always been this larger-than-life type of person.”

The two women grew close, becoming “sisters in arms,” Moffett said. Parker gave advice and talked about radio, which she called the “theater of the mind.”

Moffett was proud of the doors Parker broke down for women in radio.

“I wouldn’t even be in radio at all if it weren’t for her,” she said. “There was no female voice in radio when she first started. And the few that were, were in New York, and they were the big time people. The little stations around the rest of the country were not playing females, ever.”

Parker’s longtime companion, a parrot named Fred, was rehomed in a facility for senior pets.

It would only take meeting Parker once to mourn her, Moffett said.

“Just for one meeting, you knew how special she was,” Moffett said, “and how kind and funny and just everything you wish all humans could be.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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