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James P. Parshall

June 25, 1925 December 3, 2020
James P. Parshall
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Obituary for James P. Parshall

Dr. James P. Parshall died in Hendersonville, NC, on December 3, 2020, four and a half years short of his goal of 100 years. At 95, he was still shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, caretaking for his wife, and driving (to everyone’s dismay). Jim was resilient. Were it not for Covid, he might have met his goal.

Jim was born on June 25, 1925 in Detroit, the only child of Raymond and Nica (Petchell) Parshall. He always said his birthday was the perfect occasion for presents because it was exactly half-way to Christmas. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Detroit where he slept on a cot in the kitchen. He was a child during the Great Depression, and he told the story of how he brought a friend home after school and together they smeared all the butter allotted for a week on saltines and ate them. His mother, when she returned from work, was furious. With both parents working, Jim spent a lot of time on his own.

He began to stutter at age 3 when his mother went back to work and he had to stay with an aunt. At age 9, his English teacher told him about Shady Trails camp in northern Michigan, a place dedicated to speech correction. He told her his parents couldn’t afford it. The next day, she let him know that an anonymous benefactor would pay the camp fee for him to go to Shady Trails. He always thought she, a single woman without children, was that benefactor.

The family later moved to Clawson, Michigan. where at 125 pounds, and with great energy and determination, he played on the high school football team. Many decades later, at age 88, he named himself Class Secretary and sent annual newsletters to his high school classmates that included obituaries, updates, health information, and crossword puzzles. He’d photocopy, assemble, and mail the tomes in large envelopes to each surviving classmate as well as family and friends. Also in high school, Jim began his life-long love affair with books. His pages-long Christmas letters, complete with book suggestions, were legendary.

He served as a lieutenant in the Air Force during WW2 before attending Albion College where he joined and then quickly deactivated from a fraternity after learning they didn’t accept Blacks into membership. At Albion, he met Joanne Sluyter, his first wife, mother of the children he was so proud of, and with whom he had a lifelong friendship.

After marrying, they moved to Kirksville, Missouri, where Jim attended medical school. Upon returning to Michigan, he served his internship and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Garden City Osteopathic Hospital and later served there as Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In Plymouth, Jim and Joanne built their family: three sons, two daughters, and always a dog. Then in 1973, the family moved to Silver Lake in Traverse City, where Jim served as Chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department of Traverse City Osteopathic Hospital. Additionally, he held the position of Assistant Clinical Professor at Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, and between 1984 and 1986, he taught midwives at the Frontier Nursing Service in Hyden, Kentucky. Babies come at all hours of the day, so he spent his career years sleep-deprived.

Professionally, he was a physician, healer, counselor, educator, and life-long learner. Enthused by new ways of delivering healthcare like the Leboyer Method of birthing and Lamaze, he was responsible for the birthing rooms at Traverse City Osteopathic Hospital where women could give birth in rooms with low lighting and warm colors that simulated a home environment. He always spent extra time with his patients to help them make healthcare choices, and this meant he often ran behind schedule. Most patients didn’t mind; they knew they’d also get extra time.

He was also the neighborhood go-to doctor and sometimes first responder, once helping a burn victim from a boat explosion, another time a young girl who got hit by a car. When last minute physicals were required in order to play school football, he offered them to the neighborhood kids for free.

Jim was an optimist, a believer that determination and goodwill could overcome most obstacles. More than once he launched the family boat into Silver Lake directly from the front yard. He’d back up further and further until the motorhome he used to pull the boat trailer became stuck in the lake. At that point he’d phone Ward-Eaton towing to come pull the flooded motorhome out of the lake. It would take the whole summer for the lawn to recover from the churn of giant tow truck tires. The neighbors looked forward to Jim’s boat launching day and one even made a cake for the event. However, front yard boat launching ended when Ward-Eaton told him they would no longer facilitate the annual rescue.

Jim was warm and friendly. He loved his family and friends and children’s friends who considered him a favorite. He loved camping at Timber Shores and stamp collecting and bookstores and ice cream. Jim adored Traverse City and was so looking forward to moving back to be close to his family. It was to happen later in December.

In 1994, he married Carole Maxwell in Livonia, who survives. Together they enjoyed travelling, cruises, and church activities. They spent their retirement years living in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Jim is survived by his wife, Carole, his children David Parshall, Nancy Parshall (David Bedford), Douglas Parshall (Paula), Daniel Parshall, Susan Hooper, and Carole’s daughter Christy Maxwell (Barry Waite). Jim is also survived by seven grandchildren (Bryan, Corey, Dylan, and Emily Parshall and Jared, Logan, and Salle Waite); ten great-grandchildren; his brother-in-law, Michael Loukinen (Elaine Foster), his beloved rescue dog, Lucy; and many friends. He was pre-deceased by his parents, his first wife Joanne Kline, his son-in-law, Kevin Hooper, and Carole’s son, Marty Maxwell.

Memorial contributions can be made to Cherryland Humane Society in Traverse City or the charity of one’s choice.

Jim will be interred at Oakview Cemetery in Royal Oak alongside his parents and grandparents.

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