Charles L. Parnell, a Vietnam War veteran and retired Pine Flat Dam manager, spent a decade pushing to get a veterans home built in Fresno.
He saw his dream start to turn into reality this June, when ground was broken on the southwest Fresno site where the home is to be built.
"When he got on a project, he had tremendous focus," said Charlie Waters, a board member of the Central Valley Veterans Home Foundation. "He was a tireless worker. He was just an all around solid guy."
Mr. Parnell, 73, died Tuesday of liver failure in Sierra Villa Rest Home in Clovis.
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Charles L. Parnell Sr. was born in Fresno. He graduated from Roosevelt High School. He was in the Army and Air Force during the Vietnam War and worked for the Army Corps of Engineers at Pine Flat Dam for 40 years, retiring in 2002.
Mr. Parnell became involved in veterans affairs and joined the American Legion, where he held various offices, including post commander and State Commander of California in 2002.
In 2009, Assembly Member Mike Villines, R-Clovis, named Mr. Parnell veteran of the year for Clovis, Waters said.
In 2000, Mr. Parnell joined the effort to get a veterans home built in Fresno.
This June, he was in attendance as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined more than 500 people at the groundbreaking at the 27-acre property at Marks and California avenues. When the $168 million project is completed next year, the home will house 300 veterans and have more than 450 employees.
During the groundbreaking, Mr. Parnell was recognized for his hard work.
"We are really grateful that he was here for that, to see the culmination of 10 years of work," Waters said.
Waters worked closely with Mr. Parnell on the project, and said his determination was a key factor in making the home a reality.
Mr. Parnell's daughter, Laurie Parnell-Grover, said her father was one in a million and taught her about nature, cars, fishing and life.
"He certainly had a zest for life," she said. "Even when he was in poor health, he had the most incredible smile."
Mr. Parnell's wife, Barbara Parnell, said her husband "looked younger than his years because of all of his energy."
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Clovis, followed by burial at Belmont Memorial Gardens, and reception at the Veterans Memorial Building in Clovis. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, is expected to speak at the funeral about Mr. Parnell's efforts to get the veterans home built in Fresno.