DULUTH — Mimi Parker had a few small requests for her memorial service. She wanted festoon lighting — so the big-bulb string lights were draped from a wreath hung high in the center of the room, then down the walls of the community gathering space.
She asked that profiteroles be served, the specific cream puff recipe she perfected and taught to some women at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Guests negotiated with gobs of custard.
And, in a nod to what friends described as her "dry and subtle sense of humor," Tim Rutili was enlisted to perform his song "All My Friends Are Funeral Singers." The singer from the Chicago rock band Califone was accompanied by guitar — and Parker and Alan Sparhawk's daughter, Hollis Sparhawk, whose quiet sweet harmonies drew comparisons to her mother.
Parker, singer and drummer alongside her husband in the internationally known rock band Low, died Saturday after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer. Her death has drawn emotional responses from the likes of Robert Plant, who described her harmonies with Sparhawk as "their delicious weave" and Chrissie Hynde, who referred to Parker as a "bestie" in a tweet.
It hit especially hard here, in the music-minded city where Low has made its home since the 1990s. In the past week, Enger Tower has twice been lit in memory of Parker and the local public radio station The North had a day's worth of Low music. Duluth musicians, too, have posted tributes to social media.
Trampled by Turtles sent a bouquet.
Parker's memorial service, held Thursday afternoon on what Sparhawk described as a "blustery beautiful day," drew an estimated 350 people — a mix of church friends and music friends, according to Sparhawk — to the family's Mormon church. When the chairs in the overflow room were close to filled, they opened up seating on the overflow stage.
Friend Elsie Davis greeted the crowd with a message from the family — a nod to the several musicians who have played alongside the couple in Low.
"Friends, families, bass players ... welcome," she read.
Sparhawk occasionally hopped up from his seat at the front of the room to help out with instruments or microphones — including when friends Betsy and Matt Faerber performed an acoustic version of "Point of Disgust" which Parker sings on the 2002 album "Trust."
Robin Harris, who helped care for children Hollis and Cyrus when they were young and Low was touring, delivered the eulogy.
"If you're not crying, you should be," she said. "Because it's that big of a deal."
She told the details of Parker's quiet, unassuming life. She grew up on a farm and loved pigs, met Sparhawk in fourth grade, and was a track star at her small school in rural north central Minnesota. She was a skilled gift-wrapper, a reader, a puzzler and able to solve challenging Sudokus with ease.
Parker loved retro television, and collected chocolate from Low's travels. But she kept the international chocolates in the pantry next to the Hershey's and M&Ms.
Parker remained humble in fame. She preferred home to the road and once said the perfect life would be the life of a duchess.
Harris read aloud quotes from friends. Steve Garrington, who plays bass, said he was grateful to Parker and "forever blessed." Zak Sally, a bass player, said he was wearing a suit that he bought while touring with the band. Also an artist, Sally designed the programs — silvery lines offset against dark paper. On the back, a shadow of Parker's face as she sang with her eyes closed.
A private person who never dwelled on the subject of her fame with her siblings and rarely gave interviews, Parker first talked publicly about her diagnosis earlier this year on the syndicated program Sheroes Radio.
"It's been a helluva journey," she said. "This life is crazy. I don't even know if I have words of wisdom at this point."
Church president David Gore wondered if she would even have been comfortable with this many people talking about her.
Parker's sisters described her as someone who put other people first. True to form, memorial guests left with gifts: each family was able to pluck a rose from bouquets at the front of the church and squares were cut and offered from a quilt Sparhawk and Parker received when they were married.
And everyone received small illustrated cards with the recipe for Mimi Parker's profiteroles.