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The St. Johns Independent

Now and Then

Phyllis Rice and Ray Parr

by Jean Martin

The flow of obituaries into the St. Johns Independent seems relentless sometimes. Each one reminds us of families and friends left behind in sorrow and confusion. Each death leaves a hole in the family and the community. Sometimes the holes can be pretty big.

We were on the way home from a meeting, eating in a restaurant in Clare, when the smartphone indicated that yet another email had arrived. This one was an obituary. Phyllis Rice had died.

Phyllis had been something of a prodigy as a young girl because of her beautiful singing voice. Music became her avocation and then her vocation.

We first met her when she was a big part of the choir at the Methodist Church. At times she also played the organ, but vocal music was where she lived. When Herbert and Lynda were older, Phyllis decided to do something serious with her gift. She returned to Michigan State University to study voice. She took to wearing scarves around her throat because she had learned how to care for her instrument, her voice.

The last time I saw Phyllis she and a caregiver were in the waiting room at the hospital. I am not sure that she knew for sure who I was, but I knew her. We had a good time discussing old times and old friends that we may or may not have remembered. I am so grateful for that last visit anyway.

Then it happened again this week. The obituary this week was for Ray Parr, and the memories flooded in again. The obituary mentioned that Ray had been the owner of Parr’s Pharmacy, but it did not mention the snowy day when a young mother had a prescription phoned in from her doctor’s office. She was wondered how on earth she was going to get to the pharmacy with several small children and no car. It wasn’t long before she heard a knock at the door. There was a white station wagon parked in front of the house, and a man appeared with a white bag in his hand. Thanks, Ray. I needed that.

The obituary also mentioned that Ray was on the board for the cemetery, but it failed to tell just how much Ray knew about fundraising and how unrelenting he could be in seeking funds and publicity. Think of Ray’s determination the next time you drive on the paved roads at Mt. Rest.

Ray was also a student of local history. He had seen a lot of it himself, and he was generous in trying to share it with the community.

Again thanks, Ray.

Category: Now and Then