Helen "Sunny" Parish (Palmore)
There is a little less sunshine in the world now…
On the morning of July 24th, 2018, Helen “Sunny” Palmore Parish died peacefully in her sleep in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She was surrounded by family.
Sunny was a passionate collector of rocks, cobalt blue glass, Madame Alexander dolls, photos, and people. Sunny had a special way with everyone she met and always wanted to know all about them, hear their stories, and see their pictures. She adored her family and people who met her felt an almost instant connection with her. Her ability to love others was extraordinary.
Sunny was born in 1941 in Tulia, Texas to John Palmore and Helen Eiland Palmore. She was nicknamed Sunny because she was such a happy baby. Growing up in Lamesa, Texas, Sunny was a twirler, the student council secretary at Lamesa High School, and played the tenor saxophone. She spent summers working in her beloved grandparents’ drive-in movie theater in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and helped them build a cabin there. Sunny graduated in the high school class of 1959.
Sunny cherished her time in the Girl Scouts. She told stories of her Girl Scout troop traveling to Mexico City and eating only ice cream the whole week they were there because they did not like the food. Through Girl Scouts, she was paired with a New Zealand pen pal named Barbara Parsonson when she was 12 years old. They have maintained a 64-year-long correspondence without ever meeting in person. They started by writing letters, sent telegrams for important occasions, mailed Christmas presents months in advance, learned email, and finished by talking with online video chat in Sunny’s last months.
In 1963, Sunny was introduced to the handsome young Mel Parish by his college dorm’s dietician, Jean Prideau, who knew Sunny’s family in Lamesa and Mel’s family in Ralls. They were invited to her house for bridge. They fell in love and married in 1964.
Sunny and Mel were committed bridge players. Four days before she died she played her last bridge game with her grandson Emerson as her last bridge partner. She taught her kids and grandkids (and anyone else who crossed her path) to play and played frequently in her lifetime. Although incredibly kind in most ways, those who played bridge with her might describe her as merciless.
Sunny graduated from Texas Tech in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She taught school for six years while Mel was in graduate school. After he got his PhD, they moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1970 when Mel got a job at White Sands Missile Range. They settled in and joined the First Presbyterian Church. She was a regular church member and joined the Mary Martha Circle in 1972. She served as an elder and participated regularly in “In Betweeners.” She joined P.E.O. Chapter B.F. in 1988. She loved her P.E.O sisters and they loved her.
For her children, she was a dedicated leader for Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts. She lead the National MS readathon for eight years. Sunny’s children remember fun birthday parties with Wizard of Oz, 50s Sock Hops, and Circus themes. She attended soap box derby races, swim meets, chess tournaments and every play, soccer game, and concert in which they performed.
Sunny was a regular referral for people who knew someone with a new MS diagnosis. She was always willing to talk to someone new and share kindness, support, and resources. Sunny founded a Las Cruces MS support group and facilitated it for more than 30 years. She touched many people's lives with her kindness and positivity in the MS community.
Sunny maintained meticulous photo albums with one for each year. She almost always had a camera in her hand and she never chose candid shots. She loved posed pictures with everyone smiling. She shared those pictures with family and friends every time she saw them. She loved her life and wanted to keep track of every minute of it.
Sunny and Mel enjoyed traveling together. They were members in an R.V. club called Three Crosses Travelers with whom they traveled all around the southwest. She and Mel also traveled to England, France, Canada and all over the United States. She enjoyed adventure.
Those who knew Sunny, also knew she was a little quirky. She used some phrases no one else used like, “lawzy ain’t audy,” “I’ll be jiggered,” and “great lands o' livin.” She was always “fixin to” do something and if things were crooked they were “whompyjawed.” After 48 years in New Mexico it was amazing she still had a such a strong accent, but I think it was because she liked her accent and made no effort to change it. She liked peanut butter and mustard sandwiches and talked about them sometimes. She had a phase where she loved chopped onions and ate them all the time. She wrote letters in Morse Code with a boy in middle school, so no one could read their notes and pretended a family friend in the military was her army boyfriend and showed off his letters and pictures. She liked having “tea parties” with the grandkids and kept every greeting card she ever received. She would ooh and ahh over even the smallest gift. She loved to laugh. She played a really silly game with all the kids over and over again called "Wire Briar Limber Lock." She was completely comfortable with being her slightly weird quirky self.
Sunny had health challenges throughout her life but was an inspiration with her ability to overcome and approach every day with faith in God, a relentlessly positive attitude, and joyful excitement about life itself.
Sunny will be missed by her husband Mel Parish, daughter Melanie Parish, son-in-law Mel Rutherford (Hamilton, Ontario), son Randall Parish, daughter-in-law Selena Connealy (Albuquerque, New Mexico), grandchildren Sela Solomon, Emerson Rutherford-Parish, Xander Rutherford-Parish, Cate Parish, sister Pam Koehler (Lamesa, Texas), aunt Sarah Noret, nieces Karen Fowler, Kara Koehler, Kristi McCrary, nephews Lance Fowler, Jon Koehler, and countless cousins from several generations--of particular note is her longtime close relationship with Sarah Carson and Ann Kavanaugh. She was predeceased by her parents John and Helen Palmore, aunts and uncles Peggy Crawley, Bill Eiland, Artie Eiland, Skeet Noret, Bob Crawley, Elizabeth May, great uncle Evans Palmore, and nephew JJ Koehler.
Our family wishes to express our deepest gratitude to Ambercare Hospice and Sunny’s nurse Steve; her personal caregivers CV (Sylvia) and Flo; longtime housekeeper Rosa Valenzuela; and L&M Christian Homecare and their caregivers Josie, Maria, Lupita, Rebecca, and Petra. You cared for her with compassion and kindness and gave her love and dignity. We are eternally grateful for your care.
Services will be:
August 2nd 11:00am First Presbyterian Church of Las Cruces
200 E. Boutz Rd. Las Cruces, NM 88005
Reception will follow
September 1st 11:00am First Presbyterian Church of Lamesa
1305 N Avenue G, Lamesa, TX 79331
Family Graveside service 10:00am
Reception will follow
In lieu of flowers
We are establishing a Sunny and Mel Parish Scholarship through The PEO Foundation
Memorial Donations can be made to:
1029 Olla de Oro Lane
Las Cruces, NM 88005