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Humor and love reflected in the life of 'playful' Pat Parkin

March 18, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Patricia L. "Pat" Parkin, who died March 6 at the age of 85. Her obituary was published in the March 9 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

As Pat Parkin's children began the bittersweet journey through her papers, documents and other keepsakes after her death, a mysterious two-page letter surfaced.

The letter - dated March 24, 1946 - had been written by John Parkin to Pat offering his services as her escort while she attended her brother's upcoming wedding in Buffalo, N.Y.

With a great deal of humor and feigned arrogance, John described his physical attributes in detail and hinted that if she didn't agree to his offer, she had lost her reason and didn't know a good thing when she saw it.

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"We were amazed when we found this letter," said Sandy Prisak, Pat's only daughter. "It was in mom's things with her birth certificate so we think she wanted us to find it."

The sentiment expressed in the letter apparently worked, as they did get together a short time later and then married in October 1948.

Pat once told family members that before she met John Parkin, her life had been punctuated with sorrow.

"Our mom had been married to another man before dad - a pilot who was killed in 1944 in World War II," said Jack, Pat's oldest son.

The search through Pat's things also turned up the telegram she received, notifying her of her first husband's death.

When Pat met John Parkin, she was working at The Country Store in Concord, Mass., where she was a product purchaser and catalog model.

Family scrapbooks are filled with pictures of Pat posing in the latest styles of the early 1940s and postwar years. Her dark-haired good looks and sweet, smiling face capture her timeless youth in the photos saved from that catalogue modeling career.

Six years her senior, John Parkin was an aeronautical engineer who worked for Bell Aircraft and troubleshooted for the firm during World War II.

How he came to write that letter might never be known, but its romantic fervor is still powerful today. Pastor Tim Crosby read it in its entirety at the services for Pat.

"Dad always called our mother Princess," Jack said.

All three Parkin children were born in Buffalo, where John was then working. They briefly relocated to Florida for his work and then to Hagerstown in 1960, because he was affiliated with Fairchild Aircraft.

The family settled in Fountain Head where the three children grew up. In 1976, Pat and John moved to Mercersburg, Pa., to fulfill a lifelong dream to own and remodel an old stone house.

They stayed in that house until 1993 when John died.

"Mom was so talented - she painted, wrote poetry and made her own greeting cards," Sandy said.

Daughter-in-law Debi Parkin said those greeting cards often contained an original crossword puzzle that the recipient would have to solve to get the message.

Sandy and Jack both described their mother as very playful - someone who loved a good laugh.

"Once my brother and I took mom to Key West and she bought this ring," Jack said. He held it up, showing that the ring held a huge fake diamond stone.

Pat wore that ring for many, many years, often flashing it around like it was real.

Since 1993, Pat alternately lived with Jack and his family and Sandy and her family. Her last days were spent at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Two days before Pat died, Sandy said she learned that she was to be a grandmother for the first time. Wanting to share that good news with her mom, Sandy called the hospital room and was put on the speaker phone.

"She had tubes in her throat and in her arm but she smiled with those big blue eyes of hers and made an OK sign with her fingers," Debi said.

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