Born in metro Detroit, Michigan, on September 20, 1922, Edie Parker attended Columbia University, meeting fellow student Jack Kerouac and marrying him in the mid-1940s so that she could post his bail after he was jailed. The marriage was highly strained and the two soon split, though Parker would appear as characters in his works. She died on October 29, 1993, with her memoir published in 2007.
Frankie Edith Parker was born in metro Detroit, Michigan, on September 20, 1922, to a well-to-do Protestant clan, growing up in the Grosse Pointe region. An out-of-the-box thinker who didn't want to feel hampered in, she eventually left home to study art at Columbia University in 1941, staying with her grandparents in New York City and taking evening classes. For a time she also began seeing Henri Cru, whose mother was a neighbor, and through him was introduced to Jack Kerouac, who was also a Columbia scholarship student.
Marrying Jack Kerouac
Cru left the city to serve in World War II, and Parker and Kerouac began to see each other romantically. Parker took up residence with Joan Vollmer, and Kerouac later moved in as well. The young women's apartment morphed into the stomping grounds for a group of individuals who would become the core of the Beat Movement, including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, whom Vollmer later wed.
Kerouac faced trouble when he was jailed as a material witness in the murder of David Kammerer, whom their associate Lucien Carr had stabbed and killed in August 1944. In order to make bail, Kerouac proposed that he and Parker get married, thereby releasing her trust fund dividends and allowing her to bail him out.
Kerouac was later exonerated, and the couple lived with Parker's family in Grosse Pointe for a time, with Kerouac doing factory work before heading back to New York. Parker later joined him there, with the two staying in a variety of residences and Parker striving to bring in income. She found herself living under extreme conditions.
"The people Jack and I shared our apartment with in New York were all caught up in the dope scene at a time when I was working full time to support them," Parker said in her memoir, You'll Be Okay: My Life With Jack Kerouac. "They filled their days with drink, music and philosophical conversation, and I barely managed to subsist on mayonnaise sandwiches. In the end, I had to eat or be eaten."
Parker left the marriage in 1946 and her family annulled the union in 1952. Parker remarried two more times over the next couple of decades, and lived with her mother until the end of the 1970s.
Parker and Kerouac remained in contact here and there over the years until his death in 1969, having established himself as a famed figure who faced great emotional trauma. She appeared as re-named characters in Kerouac books like The Town and the City (1950) and the autobiographical Vanity of Duluoz (1968). Parker would also speak of better understanding her ex-spouse upon reading his work after his passing and still loving him despite the hard times. She and Cru, who had felt hurt about Kerouac's and Parker's relationship, resumed their friendship after Kerouac's death as well.
Parker died on October 29, 1993. Her papers were donated to the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by her caretaker Tim Moran. Her memoir was released posthumously in 2007 by City Lights Publishers.
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