Ralph Johnson Parish, 84, of Damascus passed away Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011 at Ozark Health Medical Center in Clinton. He was born June 20 1926 at Morganton, Ark., to the late Weldon E. and Mae (Johnson) Parish.
Mr. Parish spent most of his childhood in the Morganton community, although several years were spent in Clinton, where his father served as the Van Buren County Assessor.
He completed his primary studies at South Side High School. After graduation, he joined United States Army’s First Calvary Division, toward the end of World War II. He was stationed in Japan and the Phillippines where he mainly served as a cook. He was fond of saying that he never imagined when he joined the Army that he would spend so much time on a boat, as he sailed to these destinations in the Pacific on board different United States Navy ships.
One of his favorite stories from the war was that General MacArthur assigned him and another young man to sleep on a yacht the General had commissioned in the Phillippines to keep the native population from going aboard and tampering with his personal possessions. He would laugh as he accounted for the fact that his critical duties during the war were to guard the General’s sailboat and peel potatoes.
After the war, he spent some time with family in California but shortly came home to Arkansas and attended college at the Arkansas Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas. He graduated with his bachelor of science degree. While attending college, he rekindled an old high school romance with a young lady named Reba Jo Fleming of South Side. After graduating college, the two secretly married. The newlyweds waited two weeks to tell their families of the wedding.
The couple started their new life together as teachers. However, Mr. Parish was interested in farming, and in 1956, he was appointed by Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller as the director of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) for Van Buren County. He served in that position for 28 years, until his retirement in 1984. During his career as ASCS Director, Mr. Parish managed all the federal programs related to agricultural activity in Van Buren County. He stated that over those decades, he set his foot on every acre of farm land in the county.
For those who knew Mr. Parish, his strong passion for his farm was evident. Over 50 years, he grew and developed a thriving beef cattle business in Damascus known as Parish Farms. He eventually amassed 700 acres of land with over 180 head of Black Angus cattle. Mr. Parish was devoted to the farm’s success, spending countless hours working the land. He achieved a successful farm through his meticulous record keeping, which consisted of writing everything down in a little spiral notebook he kept in his shirt pocket.
Also, he was able to make the farm profitable by avoiding spending one red cent on any unnecessary item. There was not one fence, corral, barn, nor tractor that he hadn’t patched, plugged, jerry rigged or duct taped to get a little more use out of it. His ingenuity, drive, work ethic, and tight fist will be fondly and respectfully remembered by all his children and grand-children for decades to come.
Mr. Parish was preceded in death by his loving mother, Mae Johnson Parish Bates; father Weldon E. Parish; and sister, Wilma Kay Parish, all of Van Buren County.
Mr. Parish is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 61 years, Reba Jo Parish. Together they had five beautiful daughters, known locally as the Parish Sisters for their five-part harmony singing during their younger days. Mr. Parish is survived by all five girls, Mona Ann Harper and husband Ben; Theresa Jo Parish Roberson, all of Damascus; Pamela Sue Tamburo and husband Charles "Chee Chee" of Heber Springs; Welda Kay Griffith and husband Ricky, and Libby Denise Hutchins and husband Jeff, all of Damascus.
Mr. Parish was survived by eight grandchildren, Aaron Parish Black and wife Karen, of Little Rock; Adam Joseph Black and wife Elizabeth; Matt McMahan and wife Kortney; Madi Griffith, Ayden Griffith, Parker Isaac Hutchins, all of Damascus, and Patience Salome Tamburo and Chas L. Tamburo, both of Heber Springs. He was survived by three great-grandchildren, Hayden Gauge Black of Damascus, and Ella Ruth Parish Black and Emily Reese Parish Black, both of Little Rock. Mr. Parish is also survived by a host of loving cousins and other relatives scattered all across the United States.
Pallbearers will be Ben Harper, Ricky Griffith, Jeff Hutchins, Matt McMahan, Aaron Black, Adam Black, Chas Tamburo and Chee Tamburo.
Honorary pallbearers will be Parker Hutchins, Ayden Griffith, and Hayden Black.
Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Monday at Roller-McNutt Funeral Home Chapel in Clinton.
Funeral Service will be 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at South Side Baptist Church in Damascus, with Kenneth Bailey and Bro. Steve Stephens officiating.
Burial will follow with U.S. Army Military Honors at Bee Branch Cemetery.
The family respectfully requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation at www.pdf.org or 1-800-457-6676. Donations may also be made to Gideons International at www.gideons.org or 1-615-564-5000.
Funeral Arrangements are under the care and direction of Roller-McNutt Funeral Home of Clinton, (501) 745-2151