Laurence Jerome Parker | Passages

March 17, 1934 – Dec. 5, 2023

Larry Parker (Jerry to his family) died a good death as he lived a good life. Born in Willows, California in 1934, Larry grew up in Marin, CA, Walla Walla, WA, and Seattle, WA. When he was in 10th grade his parents, sister, and brother moved to Orcas Island where his father took a position managing Opalco. Larry graduated from Orcas High School in 1952.

While working a summer job at the North Beach Inn, he met Alice Lewis, who became his wife in 1955. They spent the early years of their marriage as city people in Seattle. Larry held an array of different jobs over those years including work in manufacturing avionics instrument panels. He served in the Naval Reserves for 7 years. Eventually, Larry had his own company creating lighting systems for Boeing. He never lost his love of aeronautics and his lifelong hobby was building detailed replica remote-controlled airplanes in his attic workshop. During the early years in Seattle, Larry and friends from Orcas built a boat they then took on a trip up the coast of British Columbia. He loved the sea as much as the air … and the land.

By the late 1950s Larry and Alice were looking for farm property on Orcas and in 1962 they found the enchanted Loomis farm in Olga and began splitting their time between Orcas and Seattle. Larry had graciously suggested the Loomises could live on the property as long as they wished if he could begin farming the land. He began by raising beef but before long planted a large apple orchard primarily specializing in Gravensteins.

For many years they came to Orcas on weekends and vacations. Larry made room in the pasture to land his small airplane for commuting to the farm. In the 1970s he started to build their dream house. This meant moving the original farmhouse and also insisting that the movers not destroy the very large and beautiful wisteria that he wanted to remain to allow it to climb the veranda he planned to build across the front of what would become “Orchard House”— and the wisteria is there to this day. Much of the lumber for the house would come from the property. By the late ’70s, Larry had finished their classic colonial house and moved the original farmhouse to the location up by the road. They shifted to full-time on Orcas, and never looked back.

If the farm was enchanted, Larry and Alice added their own magic. Alice crafted her love of food, cooking, and gardening into an active catering business and Larry embraced the role as wise farmer growing strawberries, raspberries, and Gravensteins as well as endless kale, squash, and the most beautiful flowers. And, of course, sheep. In addition to the house, Larry built a beautiful barn that was needed for hay, but also to store that boat he and his friends had built. The independent farmer could make anything, fix his beloved equipment, remember the finest details over coffee with friends at the kitchen table, and argue any current events or philosophical point. Stacks of finished New Yorker magazines accumulated in the corner.

In 1991, a young man moved into the house up by the road who would become first a support to Larry and Alice, and the sheep, and later a full partner in shepherding the flock and running the whole farm. Through 30 years of birthing lambs, planting and harvesting crops, and long conversations on life and the world, Thomas Leonard and Larry became the deepest of friends.

In 2001, Alice died after a long illness during which Larry cared for her and made it possible for her to stay in their home. Together, they had committed to preserving the farm as forever farmland. Through the San Juan Preservation Trust, Larry granted a conservation easement. In a 2001 interview with the Islands Sounder, he said it was consistent with his love of the land and his desire that future generations derive enjoyment from it. He referred to Farmer Loomis’s love for the place: “Putting the easement on the land was a way of respecting his wishes and clarifying mine.”

In 2004, Larry married Marcy Lund. They shared six wonderful years together, nurturing the gardens and the sheep, hosting delicious gatherings, and sharing their love of travel, movies, literature, and the farm before Marcy died in 2008.

Larry was graced in his life to have three cherished relationships. As Anna Schieck tells the story, in April 2010 her friends Susan and John arrived at her door in Bellingham—with Larry, proposing a picnic. Anna and Larry had known each other since the ’80s when she was a nurse at the island clinic. But following that picnic, Larry soon “became family.” He enjoyed their large family Thanksgiving celebrations and spent time at their place on Waldron, and while he kept his life at the farm and Anna hers in Bellingham, they talked on the phone every other night and Larry made frequent trips to the mainland. Anna says these years for Larry were finding a grounded independence that allowed him to explore traveling to China, Norway, and England. And in the days of his treatment for pancreatic cancer, gave him a soft place to land in Bellingham in his own room, feeling at home.

Larry leaves behind his brother, Darryl Parker, his special friend Anna Schieck and her family, his goddaughter Lily Sky, his farming partner Thomas Leonard and family, many nieces and nephews and other relatives as well as friends and neighbors who will sorely miss him but will remember him as an example of how to live life with wisdom and grace.

There will be a celebration of Larry’s life at the Orcas Center Madrona Room on Saturday, March 16 at 1 p.m. Strong coffee and desserts will be provided.