2007-05-02 / Front Page

Ski Tracks - Dennis Parsons, Sugarloaf Legend

By Dan Cassidy
Dennis Parsons stands in the doorway of Parsons' Overlook at the top of the Sawduster chairlift at Sugarloaf/USADennis Parsons stands in the doorway of Parsons' Overlook at the top of the Sawduster chairlift at Sugarloaf/USAThe Sugarloaf/USA community was saddened by the untimely death of Dennis Parsons last Thursday.The 59 year-old, a Sugarloafer since 1958, had been a legend at the mountain resort, working as a lift attendant since 1965."He worked as a liftie for 37 years," David Taylor, lift manager and cousin of Parsons said. "He also worked at the golf course in the summer for nine years, doing general maintenance. He really loved people, and there was no greater guest service representative in Maine."Taylor said that Parsons started working part-time in 1958 and went into the Army, and served in Germany. "When he returned in 1964, he came to work full-time."Prior to working full-time at Sugarloaf, Parsons worked for Keenan Auction in Kingfield.Bob Roderick, lift supervisor, said that Dennis really loved the ladies. "Whether they were nine or 90, he'd give them all a big hug. He was contagious."John Christie, general manager of Sugarloaf in 1964 met Parsons. "When Stub Taylor brought his nephew, Dennis, to the mountain in 1964 to interview for a job, I knew instantly we had a winner. So I hired him to run #4 T-bar and the rest is history," Christie said."It's with great sadness that I learned of his passing, and feel blessed that last weekend he was at his station at the bottom of the SuperQuad and we all had a chance to see and greet him there."The Sugarloaf Web page posted the following tribute to Dennis: “We'll also have fond memories of our good friend and Sugarloaf legend Dennis Parsons, who passed away suddenly this week. Dennis' smiles and friendly greetings have been a constant at Sugarloaf for over 25 years, and his presence will be greatly missed.”A memorial service was held in Bell Chapel at the base of Sugarloaf, Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of his friends, colleagues and acquaintances gathered to celebrate his life and offer their personal tributes to a Sugarloaf icon.The Reverend Earle Morse and his wife, Pam, co-pastors of the Sugarloaf Area Christian Ministry, arranged the 4:30 p.m. service."Dennis didn't want a memorial service," Earle Morse said. "So we really aren't here. Let's pretend that we're gathered around a campfire, and because there isn't a camp that would fit all of us in, we're here at the Bell Chapel.” He invited anyone who wanted, to come to the podium to say a few words of how they remembered Parsons.Among those speaking were John Diller, General Manager, John Christie, Betsy Bass, Colin Durrell, Don Fowler and Lionel Hering."When Dennis started at Sugarloaf, he always started the day with a smile, saying 'nice to see you today. Have a good day and ski safely.' He would say that 4 to 5 days a week times 25 to 30 weeks," Diller said. Diller also read off some of the “chat room” e-mails, one in particular saying, "We know you're at the Pearly Gates, tending the line."Diller said that Parsons was honored by the Maine Tourism Commission at the Governor's Conference on tourism at the Samoset Resort in Rockport in the early 1990s. He was the first to receive the Outstanding Tourism Employee of the Year award. It was presented by Governor Angus King."We give the award now at Sugarloaf every year, and have named it the Dennis Parsons Hospitality Award.""Two years ago was a defining moment," John Christie said. "Standing in the maze of the lift line, Dennis Parsons said, ‘There's John Christie, the man who hired me.’ A loud applause came from the crowd, but it was not for me," Christie said. "It was for Dennis!""Dennis Parsons was like an artist," Don Fowler said. "He was a performer, entertainer and artist. There won't be another like him."Lionel Hering spoke about the time he and Parsons worked together for Keenan Auction, and mowing lawns on a John Deere tractor, and some of the incidents that occurred.Another attendee spoke about the time during Reggae he was on his snowboard waiting in line and Dennis would go down the line quietly saying, “‘Please, Please, Please. Hold.' I would stand there for another round of, 'Please, Please, Please. Hold!' Then two ladies in bikinis came through and he pointed to me saying, 'Please. I was saving you just for them.'""Dennis stood up so we could sit down. Dennis worked through hail, cold, snow. He knew how to make his job enjoyable,” Morse said.Morse said that, “Hug a Liftie” at Sugarloaf came from Dennis. "Scan a ticket or a full body hug, that was Dennis. Then there was the time, I'd be standing in the single line and he'd put me in line with three other people and say loudly, ‘Good morning REVEREND!' The three other people would quietly look at me."Richard "Crusher" Wilkinson, Vice President of Operations at Sugarloaf said that Dennis was one of those dedicated individuals that would never miss a day of work in his life. "Many nights when a big snowstorm or ice storm was forecast he would set up a cot at the SuperQuad and spend the night. He did everything he could to make sure the lift opened on time for his guests.”Crusher said that Dennis would often call him about details around the resort that needed attention. "If things were not addressed that he pointed out, he was never bashful about reminding me. He treated everyone the same. Everyone was his guest."

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