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New Orleans says goodbye to storyteller and her story

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nancy Parker was known for her off-camera wit, warmth, and devotion to family and for her on-camera, Emmy-winning knack for presenting a story.

Franklin Augustus was her latest subject, a pioneer African-American stunt pilot with a half-century of flying experience who sometimes visited local schools wearing a superhero’s mask to deliver anti-drug messages.

It was the perfect match of storyteller and story but it came to a sudden, stark end last week. Augustus’ two-seat biplane crashed and burned shortly after takeoff Friday from New Orleans Lakefront Airport with Parker aboard. Both died in a crash that remains under investigation.

New Orleans is still saying goodbye.

Xavier University will host a memorial Friday for Parker, who is survived by her husband Glynn Boyd, a former reporter who now is a spokesman for a suburban sheriff’s office, and their three children. She was remembered over the weekend in a neighborhood “second-line” parade (so called because watchers fall in behind the band to form a second line of marchers). A makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons and other memorabilia remains outside the WVUE-TV studios where Parker, 53, was a popular anchor for 23 years.

It was a job the Opelika, Alabama, native appeared destined for since her days at the University of Alabama in the 1980s.

“She had all of the charisma that you’d expect, but she also had a just down-home quality about her that made her very likable,” Ed Mullins, the retired dean of the university’s College of Communications recalled Tuesday. “It made sources really open up to her.”

She gravitated to television, Mullins said, after print journalism classes where she honed writing skills admired by colleagues.

“She was the person that I went to in our newsroom when I was working on a story that I wanted to make sure I had the right touch on,” said Rob Masson, a longtime New Orleans broadcast veteran.

A memorial is being planned for Aug. 31 at the airport for Augustus, who was well-regarded among his fellow pilots of smaller aircraft at Lakefront.

Augustus was the chairman of a Louisiana chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., an organization dedicated to the memory of the African American pilots and those who trained them during World War II at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman confirmed that Augustus was a reserve deputy. Gusman’s office provided pictures of Augustus in superhero “Drug Fighter” garb.

Biographical information on Augustus from Tuskegee Airmen Inc. says he sometimes talked of having grown up poor in New Orleans, and how he wanted to interest young people in aviation — as an alternative to the lure of drugs.

“I witnessed it and I heard it from others: He worked tirelessly for the kids,” Owen Bordelon, a pilot who has flown his small plane out of Lakefront for decades, said Tuesday.

For all the camaraderie Augustus shared with other pilots, his private life was something of a mystery.

“All of us know little pieces about him but no one has the whole picture,” said Bordelon.

Bordelon was among the last people to see Augustus and Parker before their flight. He chatted with them before piloting his plane on a short trip to the Stennis airport in south Mississippi. “By the time we got to Stennis, the phone was ringing off the hook. It had already happened.”

Masson was at the scene for WVUE. He knew, but was not yet able to report, that one of the victims was a treasured friend.

He said that recalling Parker’s professionalism helped him, and colleagues in the studio, maintain on-camera composure.

“The mantra I had as I got through that afternoon was, ‘What would Nancy do?’ That kind of got me through it,” Masson said.


Colder and quiet rest of the week

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A good 20° swing Wednesday morning with temperatures in the lower to mid 20s this morning with feel-like temperatures in the teens. it will be a clear start then brighter heading through the rest of the morning and the afternoon! Sunshine won’t help us out too much in terms of temperatures today. Daytime highs should warm to the upper 30s. Wednesday night will be a cold one with lows in the lower 20s with a partly cloudy sky.

Thursday will be another cold one with highs struggling to reach 30°. It’ll still be a bright one with a mostly to partly sunny sky. A slow warming trend will start Friday with highs warming to the upper 30s with a mixture of sun and clouds.

This weekend will be split with a chance of showers arriving late in the day Sunday. Highs will continue to warm to the mid-40s Saturday with a partly sunny sky. Clouds return Sunday with showers later in the evening and overnight. Rain will continue through Monday. Tuesday looks to be a dry day for now then showers should return by midweek with highs in the mid 40s.