SANDY — As afternoon was edging toward evening a week and half ago, a black SUV pulled into the driveway at the home Judy Parry shares with her son Mark.
Walker, Texas Ranger, got out.
Yeah, that Walker, Texas Ranger.
He rapped on the door, just like in the TV show, crouched and ready for whatever was on the other side of the door.
Mark opened it.
And Chuck Norris gave him a big hug.
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Mark Parry wasn’t dealt an easy hand in life. He was born 33 years ago with Down syndrome. Two years ago his dad, Rick, died of cancer. Two months ago Mark was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer. It’s at stage four. He has two to six months to live.
Mark’s approach to life has always been doing what you can instead of what you can’t. With six brothers and three sisters, 38 nieces and nephews and a mom who has been his permanent offensive line since the day he was born, he’s had great support at home. When he was 22 he signed on for a service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They assigned him to work in the kitchen at the cafeteria in the Church Office Building. Every day, he’d catch the bus from his home in Sandy, ride to downtown Salt Lake, do his shift, and ride home.
That worked out so well, when his mission was over, the people who ran the cafeteria begged Mark to stay. He said yes. For the last decade he’s not only been an indispensable employee, he’s made more friends than he can count.
Something else Mark grabbed onto that enhanced his life was Chuck Norris, the movie actor, martial arts guru, and, not least, star of the hit TV show, “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Years ago, Mark saw Chuck Norris on television and it was obsession at first sight. He bought the Total Gym, the workout machine Chuck Norris sponsors. He enrolled in karate, earning his black belt. He watched every episode of every season of “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Then he got Judy and Rick to buy the DVDs so he could watch them again and again.
He wore a cowboy hat, Chuck Norris style. Every day at the cafeteria he showed up with it on. Sometimes at break he’d entertain everyone with a karate demonstration.
So that’s Mark, and you can imagine the reaction when his co-workers found out about his cancer. They felt like a truck had fallen on them.
They couldn’t do anything about the cancer, but they could do something about Mark. One of his supervisors, who prefers to remain anonymous, had the brainstorm of seeing if Chuck Norris might ever be passing through Salt Lake City.
Their people contacted his people in Los Angeles.
It turned out he was coming to Utah to do some promotional work with Maverik.
When Chuck Norris and his wife, Gena, flew into the Salt Lake Airport they had Mark’s address with them. The first thing they did when they got in the black SUV waiting for them at the curb was aim straight for Sandy.
They called Judy on the way, asked if it would be OK if they dropped by, and said they’d be there in a half-hour.
When the doorbell rang, Judy let Mark answer.
“I am still amazed they would come and do that,” says Judy a week and a half later. “They could not have been nicer. Chuck Norris was as kind a person as I’ve ever met.”
Chuck Norris signed every one of Mark’s DVDs. He walked with him downstairs to his bedroom to see the “Walker, Texas Ranger” gear on the walls. In the family room he got down on the Total Gym bench and did some exercises.
“It was just like a friend down the street who came to visit,” says Judy.
“You hear a lot about celebrities and how difficult they are. You don’t get to see the other side. I thought they might have their PR people with them, taking pictures and following them around. But they wanted no publicity, no photos, no attention. They didn’t want anything; just to make a boy’s dream come true.”