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Sterling Heights

October 23, 2013

Residents savor memories of local ice cream man

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

Residents aren’t letting the recent death of a prominent ice cream salesman melt away the memories of his dedicated customer service.

Allen Parkinson, popularly known as “Weird Beard” by residents and fans, served ice cream in Sterling Heights for around three decades, according to his brother.

Bruce Parkinson, Allen’s brother, said Allen died several weeks ago in Germany, where he had been seeking cancer treatment related to the stomach and esophagus.

Bruce said Allen, 60, was diagnosed with cancer in the spring, after his arm started swelling up while moving things around the warehouse.

“He went to the hospital,” Bruce explained. “They did a biopsy. The cancer was in his lymph system already.”

Bruce said he had an old friend who went into the ice cream truck business, and he was the one who hired Allen and started his career at the Meadowbrook Ice Cream Co.

“I’d say Allen was probably his longest employee out of everybody,” Bruce said. “He usually was the top seller of ice cream that year. … He would usually win all the contests every year.”

Bruce, who lives in Oakland Township, said Allen lived with him when he wasn’t driving an ice cream truck. Because Allen was single and didn’t have a family to support, that gave him more time and money to pour into his work, vacations and his hunting cabin Up North.

“He was always really honest and kind,” Bruce said. “If the kids were poor, he’d just give them ice cream for free. … Since he did it for 30 years, he had both longevity and (was) generous, and people remember him for those reasons.”

Following the announcement of Allen’s death, an outpouring of community support erupted on a Facebook page created in Allen’s memory. Some residents also told the Sentry about their memories.

Sharon Girgenti, of Sterling Heights, said she knew Allen for around 11 years; he’d work the same route every summer. She said Allen was soft-spoken but would sometimes tell stories of his trips to the beach or mountain climbing.

Girgenti said he was still smiling when she saw him working this summer.

“He didn’t look sick. He didn’t act sick. I never heard him cough,” she said.

Girgenti said she also remembered Allen’s generosity, adding that kids who had no money or insufficient amounts would still often get an ice cream on the house.

“If you were short some money, he’d always let you go,” she said.

Jamie Jakubowski, 28, of Sterling Heights, said she was a customer of Allen’s for many years, and she remembers all the times she heard the truck’s bells ringing in the neighborhood.

She called him a genuine person who she felt was a staple of the community.

“We called him ‘Jesus,’” she said. “He was always super friendly. He always had photographs from his travels put up on his truck.”

A memorial for Allen Parkinson will be held Oct. 26 at the North Macomb Sportsmen’s Club, 3231 Inwood Road, in Washington, Mich. Learn more by calling (586) 752-2450.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.