A Life Remembered | Helping orphans in Haiti became Tim Parker's life

A Life Remembered | Helping orphans in Haiti became Tim Parker's life

Just a few days before a tiny 6-month-old baby named Jamesley was brought to God's Littlest Angels orphanage in 2012, Tim Parker had been joined by his wife and daughter at his home on the Haiti orphanage's compound.

Jamesley weighed only 7 pounds when he arrived, but after a few weeks in the NICU at the orphanage Tim and Melissa Parker devoted their lives to, he gained enough weight to go home with his mother.

Weeks later, he was back — this time for good.

The Monticello natives hadn't intended on adopting a child when they moved to Haiti, but the Parkers' plans changed with Jamesley, whom they eventually welcomed into their family.

"He just kind of grabbed our hearts and never let go," their daughter, Chelsie Bickel, said Thursday.

"God was just telling them, 'He's yours, so let's make him yours.'"

A few weeks ago, Tim Parker began feeling ill, but he didn't like leaving the compound because he knew they needed the help, his daughter said. With his condition worsening Thursday morning, he arrived at the airport in Haiti to fly back to Illinois.

Shortly after he got there, he began feeling chest pains and was taken to the hospital in Port-au-Prince. Later that morning, he died of a suspected heart attack.

Now, the family is pushing for a visa for Jamesley, who has a Haitian passport, so that he and Melissa can come back to the United States for a funeral. They're requesting that people call their congressmen to ask the U.S. Embassy to grant the visa.

"At that point, we're trying to get as many people as possible to contact U.S. congressmen and senators," Bickel said. "For the U.S. to push it through should be pretty easy; we just have to kind of go through the right channels. We've just been asking everybody to make a phone call or send an email."

Tim Parker's devotion to helping children didn't come out of nowhere. He was adopted when he was 6, his daughter said, and he always had the desire to give back.

He met fellow Monticello natives John and Dixie Bickel, who founded God's Littlest Angels in 1994, after hearing them speak at a church. Following a few mission trips, they asked him to stay and work there.

In 2012, he made the move permanent and soon was followed by his wife and daughter.

"They loved living there and being a part of what they were, so they were down there indefinitely," said Chelsie Bickel, who married John and Dixie's son, Steve. "He was a very sweet, caring, giving man.

"He loved what he did; he loved the kids. He was a wonderful dad, and you know, his spirit was good."

By Thursday afternoon, numerous people had already notified the family that they had reached out to their congressmen, including Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen, who posted on Facebook that she had called U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and would continue to follow up.

"We're very grateful for everybody who's trying to help with this," Bickel said. "We want to be able to be a family and have a service, and my mom didn't feel like leaving Jamesley behind would be right, for a little boy who just lost a daddy."