The Reverend Ronald Harold Parrish, Associate Minister of the Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC) of Savannah, was called into the Lord’s arms in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He was 69 years old. Ron had been recuperating from a nearly 3-month long health battle that began with Covid-19 in October. He died of cardiac arrest.
Ron was serving in his 26th year at IPC, a calling he truly loved and for which he labored diligently. Affectionately referred to as a “people’s” pastor, Ron cherished the work of ministering to God’s people and was certainly known for his warm, engaging personality and affection for others. House calls, hospital visitations and praying with those in need were particular gifts and duties he enjoyed. He made many lasting friendships with out-of-town visitors from around the world as he walked the Sunday morning aisles of IPC greeting new faces, not to mention being one of the first people to befriend newcomers. Particular among his favorite parishioners were the children of IPC families.
Ron was born June 13, 1951 in Montezuma, GA, the eldest of Prince and Ann Parrish’s three children. Soon after his birth, Ron’s family relocated to his dad’s hometown of Greensboro, GA, where he was reared. Young Ron found an outlet in high school athletics through which he formed friendships that were formative in his early Christian life. These years also earned him the moniker of “Doc,” a nickname he carried throughout high school, college and seminary. Ron was led to pursue his faith as a vocation and fulfilled a dream to attend Belhaven College (now University) in Jackson, MS (class of ‘73) with several other high school classmates from Greensboro, later earning a Masters of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson (class of ‘77).
It was during his time serving as a young assistant pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Montgomery, AL, that he met and fell in love with a newly credentialed Canadian nurse who had recently moved to the United States for a short nursing assignment. Ron received a “tip” from an elder in his congregation that a team of Canadian nurses recently arrived in town and Ron gladly volunteered himself to help the cohort find a church home! Ron and Donna were married in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada less than a year later and celebrated 41 years of marriage in October.
Ron was a devoted husband and father. He frequently showed great enthusiasm in his children’s avocations and professions, often engaging himself in their respective interests. Ron and Donna were overjoyed at their new role as grandparents for the last 2 years, Ron particularly embracing his position as “Papa.”
Ron was proud of Donna’s Canadian heritage and faithfully returned her and their children to Ontario annually for summer holiday with Donna’s parents and family. He spent many years camping with Donna’s family across Ontario’s provincial parks and introducing each of his children to fishing in Ontario’s Grand River.
An avid reader and lover of books, he amassed a collection of historic and theological works that most ministers or academics would envy — save when such a collection must be moved, as was the case several times in Ron’s life.
Ron was a lover of music — particularly classical and jazz, and of course, of sacred choral music and hymns. He was always ready with a “new find” to share with his children. With his knack for impersonation, voices and an on-demand recall for song lyrics to fit a situation, he lovingly brought joy to his family and friends.
Ordained to the ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America in 1977, Ron celebrated his 44th year of public ministry in 2020. During those years, Ron served congregations in Montgomery, AL; Roanoke and Martinsville, VA; Chestnut Mountain, GA; Pensacola, FL; and two separate congregations in Savannah, GA.
Accolades and praise were never sought by Ron, nor did he enjoy them. He would have grimaced at the reading of this tribute. He carried out his work and life with a profound sense of duty and gratitude that the Lord had provided him far more than he had ever imagined or deserved. As he wrote in a public note of thanks to the congregation of IPC on the celebration of his 20th year serving the church, “To quote my favorite homespun philosopher, Bernard P. Fife, ‘You know how I hate all this fuss and falderal. Lord knows job itself’s reward enough.’”
A blessing at his age, Ron was predeceased by no immediate family. He is survived by his wife Donna, son Matthew (Ann Douglas) of Richmond, VA, daughter Leighann Rosenfeld (Victor), son Andrew (Claire), and son David of Savannah; grandsons Max Rosenfeld and Joel Parrish; his parents, M. H. “Prince” Parrish (age 95) and Ann Carr Parrish (age 91) of Greensboro, GA; his brother Scott of Greensboro, GA and his sister Patti Parrish Stansell (Calvin) of Watkinsville, GA; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews across Georgia and Ontario, Canada.
The family will receive friends from 4 until 6 o’clock Thursday, January 28, 2021, in the outdoor pavilion at Point Pleasant – 441 Suncrest Boulevard, Savannah. Recommended Covid protocols will be followed.
A memorial service will be held at 11:30 Friday morning, January 29, 2021, at Independent Presbyterian Church. Private burial will be in the Greenwich section of Bonaventure Cemetery.
The Parrish and Rosenfeld family sincerely thanks the nurses, doctors and administrators of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital system for their attentive care for Ron over the last 3 months.
Remembrances can be made to the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, P.O. Box 9266, Savannah, GA, 31412.