A tribute to Ray ParkerPosted on: 26/02/2020
Unfortunately, at the beginning of February 2020, we lost a friend of Blenheim High School. Over the past few months, Blenheim has been privileged to use the facilities of Epsom and Ewell boxing gym during PE lessons and for afterschool clubs. The facilities, including a boxing ring, punch bags and pads have been a valuable asset to #teamblenheim. The students have really enjoyed the use of the boxing gym, with some now regularly attending the boxing club outside of school hours.
The relationship between Blenheim High School and Epsom and Ewell Boxing Club would not have been possible without Ray Parker. When the idea of letting Blenheim PE Department use the boxing gym was put forward to Ray, he was extremely quick to agree. Immediately, Ray was talking about how much the use of the gym would help the school, and most importantly the students. Ray often spoke about how boxing has helped so many young people in the community, and he hoped it would continue with Blenheim.
Ray made the process quick and simple, and within a few days Blenheim High School were using the boxing gym for the first time. Ray did not ask for anything in return. His only request was that Blenheim used the gym as much as possible and that we kept him updated on how it was helping Blenheim’s students.
#teamblenheim continues to value members of our community like Ray, and sends condolences to Ray’s family and friends. Blenheim will be making an annual contribution to Epsom and Ewell Boxing Gym to say thank you to Ray and to help commemorate Ray’s significant contribution to the community.
A tribute from The Parker Family
Ray first entered Epsom & Ewell boxing club in 1975 with his then 9 year old son, Rob. Ray knew from his own experience that learning to box would not only keep Rob fit but would also build the confidence of his shy young son. Back then, the clubs premises was a small building called Pit house on Cheam Road. Ray took Rob training at the club up to 3 times a week and it wasn’t long before Ray was supporting the club as much as any of the trainers. When the club needed to move to another premises on the Longmead Estate in the late 70’s, (later named the Stephen Woods centre) Ray helped to organise the move and set up new floors, boxing rings and punch bags amongst other things so the boys didn’t lose much training time. With his enthusiasm for the sport and realisation of what a great resource the club was in the community, it was not long before Ray was part of the committee that kept the club running smoothly. His official title was club secretary but at times, it was just him & Rob running the whole club.
Ray supported each and every boxer and when they were matched to box, he thought nothing of driving them to venues all over the country. In the early days when money was scarce, he drove several boxers to Blackpool in his van with enough food in the back to cook them breakfast on a camping stove. With no public funding there was times when Ray wondered how they could keep going with barely any money coming in. This was when Ray dipped into his own pocket as he was so determined to keep the club going for those that used it. He knew that many of the lads were from poorer families and the travelling community and for those lads, the club was a lifeline.
Ray supported anyone that wanted to have a go, whether it was to become the next world champion (*see below), to stick up to the bullies or to simply get fit. Ray did not judge, he just quietly encouraged the boys to be the best that they could be. Having won several school boy championships , Rob, always encouraged and supported by Ray, went on to become the youngest qualified trainer in the UK at just 16 years old. There have been several other trainers and many more youngsters at the club over the years, many of whom kept in touch and considered Ray and his family to be friends.
Over the years to ensure the club could financially support itself, Ray refurbished the downstairs part of the building, fitting a small kitchen and redecorating so it could be hired out as a party venue. He also fitted new fencing and ensured the grass was cut and the whole area was tidy. About 10 years ago the rules changed meaning girls were now able to attend the boxing club. As Welfare officer at the club Ray took steps to ensure guidelines were adhered to so everyone felt welcome and was treated fairly. Over the last few years, Ray secured a regular income for the club by allowing exclusive use of the downstairs area to a kickboxing club. The two clubs remain supportive to each other to this day. Ray could always spot potential and this was proven when three of his boxers went on to become professional. Charlie Eastwood, who went on to box for England and won in the 3 Nations , Charlie Edwards, who went on to become a world champion and his brother Sonny Edwards who went on to become the British Champion. All three regularly return to where it all began and catch up with Ray and Rob. It is hard to say how many people Ray has helped over the 45 years that he was involved in the boxing club but it is easily in the thousands. In 2007 Ray received an award recognising his voluntary work over the past 35 years, it was reported (the post) that the Club was regarded as one of the most successful diversionary schemes in the area. In the past, few years even though his health was deteriorating Ray still managed to get to the club twice a week. This was when he encouraged two of the regulars to take the course to become trainers and was delighted when Max Rayner & Lance Patey passed the exams and qualified. Ray passed away on 21st January
It is a testament to how respected and popular Ray was that over 200 people attended his funeral on 26th February 2020. Many of the mourners were from the boxing fraternity, past and present and some wore their club colours in Ray’s honour. Many of the boxers, trainers and their families who have become great friends have been a huge support to Ray’s wife of 56 years Margaret and their family.