The son of a Salmon Arm, B.C., church elder who was shot dead Sunday morning says he was a father figure to more than just his own four children.
Gordon Parmenter, 78, was killed after a man armed with a rifle opened fire in the Church of Christ around 10:30 a.m. PT.
His son David Parmenter, 51, said that his California-born father had fostered children with special needs for decades — and knew the suspect now arrested in connection with his death.
“He was just a big father figure in lots of people’s lives. Always willing to help. Just has a big servant heart. There’s lots of people who woke up without a father this morning,” he said.
A 25-year-old man is in custody after the shooting.
Witnesses said the man took aim at two parishioners. One man was shot in the leg and is in stable condition in hospital. Gordon Parmenter died at the scene.
Police say they do not believe the shooting was religiously motivated. A shotgun was seized and charges are pending.
David Parmenter said his father was a pillar in his community, known for helping young people at high risk and in need. He said his father knew the alleged suspect and loved him.
“He had poured his love out to him as well,” he told CBC Monday morning.
He said he believes his father was targeted, particularly in light of two incidents last month. David Parmenter said his father’s house was deliberately set alight and the tires of his vehicle were slashed.
“It was an arson and his tires were slashed. It was a very clear message, but we had no idea who would have done this,” David Parmenter said.
Near-death accident as teen
He said his father had various jobs over the decades.
He worked as a logger in Arizona and Montana and was almost crushed to death in a Montana logging accident at age 17, said his son.
He said his father then joined the U.S. navy before moving to Vernon, B.C., in 1985, where he worked as a regional manager at the Coca-Cola bottling plant. After that he bought into a hog farm in Tappen, B.C., until 1998, when the farm failed.
David Parmenter said his father then began working with high-risk foster children and retrained to be a cabinet maker and a handyman.
He says his father, who was married to Peggy Parmenter, had four children: Tony, Susan, Judy and himself. Judy died of cancer in 2003.
‘Shock waves’ through family, community
Both members of the tight-knit Church of Christ congregation — which numbers about 50 members — and former foster children have expressed their grief at Gordon Parmenter’s death.
His sister-in-law Elaine Semmelmann described him as a pillar in her community on social media.
“Shock waves are moving through my family and having us reeling with the loss of another beloved patriarch. My brother-in-law was killed this morning in a church shooting. It is a tragedy beyond what I can comprehend.”
Cole Wintringham wrote a tribute to the Parmenters in an obituary on social media, crediting them, and especially Gordon, for encouraging him to graduate and explore theatre and music.
“Without him I never would have made it to Grade 12. I was fear stricken at the thought of attending classes. However, I was able to reintegrate into the school system in Grade 11. I am now in my third term of college. I would not be there were it not for Gord.”
“I’ll miss you forever Gordo, you were one of the best men I ever knew.”