By Catherine Festa, TSB Staff
Some people measure success by a promotion at work or the trophies that sit on their shelves. But for Bob Parker, a member of the staff at McKinney’s Cooper Fitness Center, it’s the binder full of letters from presidents, athletes and corporate executives who appreciate his product.
In 1974, Bob went to work for Dr. Cooper of Cooper’s Clinic in Dallas. After just exiting the Navy as a technical engineer, Parker was asked to help make improvements to the stress-test treadmill.
“You’re born with an aptitude of something and mine happened to be mechanical engineering,” Parker said. “As a result of that, I was able to look at some of the things that were being used during the stress-testing period of treadmills that I thought could use vast improvements.”
After being brought onto Dr. Cooper’s team, Parker became the go-to man for stress testing treadmills. The renovations he made became the type of treadmill everyone in the health world wanted.
“Dr. Cooper asked me if I could help him out, so I went home with a hammer and saw and built a new treadmill,” Parker said. “I brought the treadmill in and it worked very well on the patients.”
Before he knew it, Parker’s rendition of the treadmill became the prime product on the market for fitness. He was receiving calls from racehorse trainers, NASA, professional golfers, NFL teams and most of all…from the White House.
“Next thing I knew, I was in the treadmill business,” Parker said. “It started to take off big time. My prime specialty became medical treadmills, but then I branched out into home exercise and health club treadmills. Any aspect you can imagine for treadmills, I built it.”
As Parker’s treadmill took off, his name in the industry skyrocketed. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. wanted his treadmill.
“I started getting calls from places like the white house,” he said. Ronald Reagan wanted a treadmill for his office. Also for George Bush Senior. Reagan used it throughout his whole presidential career.”
After all his success with Dr. Cooper, Parker began his own treadmill business. But several years after developing his own company, he sold it and tried to retire.
“I tried to retire, but one thing I did find was that I never actually want to retire,” Parker said. “You need to keep active.”
In 2006, Dr. Cooper opened a second location for his clinics in Craig Ranch and asked Parker to come join the staff.
“You never want to retire. I drove myself nuts, as well as my wife,” Parker said. “Then when Dr. Cooper was building this facility in 2006 he asked me to come join in. I enjoy what I do here. It gives me a reason to get out of bed. So many retired people don’t do anything. They lay in bed, eat and look at each other and don’t know what to do with themselves.”
Now nearly 30 years later, Parker works at Cooper’s Fitness Center in Craig Ranch and handles all the equipment, as well as maintains a flight instructor’s licenses. He also keeps evidence of his successes nearby. His office walls are covered with pictures of him with presidents, athletes and people who appreciate his work. He also keeps a binder stocked with letters and diagrams of all his work.
“The best moments of my career would be being appreciated and recognized,” Bob said. “It really is a compliment when the President of the United States wants your product. I mean that really is one hell of an ego-booster. “
TSB contributing writer Catherine Festa is a senior at McKinney High School where she is editor of the year book.