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Santa Barbara Developer Fess Parker Dies at 85

The local actor was also the namesake of Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort and Fess Parker Winery

Fess Parker, actor and supporter of Santa Barbara hotel and vineyard institutions, died of natural causes at his Santa Ynez home Thursday morning, according to a family spokesman. He was 85.

Fess Parker
Fess Parker (Bob Dickey photo /

His daughter, Ashley Parker, told Noozhawk in an e-mail Friday that he “was a great father. He expected a lot out of us (Eli and me), but he was a lot of fun and was very hands-on.”

“We used to go up to a ranch he had in the Suey Creek in Santa Maria and cut back brush, work cattle and spend time with the horses,” she added. “We used to go to Lake Shasta every summer to house boat and water ski. He had a boat in the Santa Barbara Harbor for many years, and he loved being a harbor rat and taking us out to Santa Cruz and Catalina.”

Parker moved to Los Angeles from Texas in the 1950s to begin an acting career. His most famous role was as the lead character in Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.

Parker was also behind the Fess Parker Winery in Los Olivos.

But one of his most visible projects during his career as a developer was the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort, a 360-room hotel on the Santa Barbara waterfront.

“Fess dedicated half of the land where the city Redevelopment Agency built the major expansion of Chase Palm Park ... a decade or more before he was required to as a community benefit,” said Dave Davis, executive director of the Community Environmental Council and Santa Barbara’s former longtime community development director.

“For every grandchild who has ridden the carousel, to music lovers who attend the summer Thursday night concert series, to kids playing on the whale sculptures that spray,” he said, “we have Fess to thank.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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