Mary Parkerson | Passages

Mary Achsah Parkerson passed away on Friday, March 22 surrounded by her family after a heroic 4-year fight against cancer. A beautiful celebration of life took place in her honor in the Madrona Room at the Orcas Center on April 14th, where stories were told reflecting the joy, care, and intention with which she lived.

“Sweet little Mary,” nicknamed by her older cousin Charlotte, was born to Jane Boland and Thomas Parkerson in Temple City, California on December 30, 1953. Being the fifth of nine siblings, there was no shortage of stories regarding family camping trips and bike rides through the neighborhood. Mary’s first job was working at an A&W drive-in where her sisters loved to drop by and say hello, and she volunteered as a candy striper (volunteer nurse) at St. Luke’s Hospital in Pasadena. Mary graduated from San Gabriel Mission High School in 1972 and continued her education at Cal State Long Beach where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

It was during her time pursuing her master’s in psychology at Cal State Long Beach that she met her life partner, Evelyn Brewer. Four years later, Mary gave birth to Adam Parkerson in Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach in 1981, followed by Zac Parkerson in 1985. In 1986 Mary and her family packed up their things and moved north to start a new life by purchasing Eastsound Kennels and raising their young family on Orcas Island.

It was never unclear throughout Mary’s life that her number one priority was her family. This could be seen in family meals, endless stories read at night, preparing her kids for school each morning, taking trips around the island, West Coast, and across the country, and endless lessons taught in the yard, kennel, town, and beyond. Mary’s dedication to her children can also be seen in her constant participation in programs for her kids and community in the PTA, cub scouts, sports, field trips, volunteering at school, and off-island music lessons. I doubt anyone attending local high school football games in 2004 would forget her wild blue hair and incessant chanting as she cheered for her son on the field. Just as she did at the kennel with customers and animals alike, Mary put every ounce of her energy and passion into her family.

Mary’s love for her family culminated in the last 5 years of her life spending as much time laughing and playing as possible with her two grandchildren, Aiden and Zoey. When Mary wasn’t with Aiden and Zoey at weekly family gatherings, soccer practices, swimming lessons or off-island trips, she was either talking about them in town or scheming up new ways to increase her time with them. Though Mary’s physical conditions worsened throughout these final years begging her to slow down, it was her drive to be with her grandchildren that kept her body surging forward until the very moment she passed. As if Dylan Thomas wrote the poem for Mary herself, she did not go gentle into the good night.

Aside from her family and work, Mary also had many interests and passions that she enjoyed throughout her life. Mary took great joy in tending her gardens and would admit that one of her favorite things to do was losing herself for whole afternoons at a time digging and planting in the sun. Mary had a deep love of reading, and was known to never turn down a quality dessert, coffee or glass of wine with her family and friends. Mary also joined many physical classes during her time on Orcas such as tai chi and yoga, and eventually found what she would later call her “church” at Fitness Quest. It’s so fitting that she found her place in Fitness Quest, making bonds as close as family with the warriors she met there while continually pushing herself beyond her physical and spiritual limits.

What Mary had was an impeccable balance of angelic grace and indomitable strength. Perhaps it was nourished by her workout classes, surely tested by her two sons and partner, and maybe even in part due to her time with the animals at the kennel. And yet, I believe these qualities touch on something ancient, found deep within the “almond eyes” that her own mother loved so much. Mary was truly one of a kind, and her presence will be felt by those she touched for many, many years to come.

Thank you, Mary. We love you.