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Thomas  Z Parrish
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Obituary for Thomas Z Parrish

Thomas Z. “Tom” Parrish died in Waco on January 15, 2018, at the age of 98. A service commemorating his long life will be held 11:00 a.m., Saturday, January 20, at First Baptist Church, Waco, The Rev. Matt Snowden officiating. A visitation will be held from 6-8 p.m., Friday, January 19, at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home in Waco.

Parrish was born Sept. 6, 1919, in Moscow, Texas. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University and served as a teacher and superintendent of schools in his hometown before joining the U.S. Navy on his 22nd birthday. Expecting to be a part of the U.S. efforts to ship supplies across the Atlantic to sustain England, he was instead sent to the Pacific, where on December 7, 1941, he served as a 3rd-class storekeeper aboard the USS Vestal, a repair ship berthed alongside the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

After Pearl Harbor, Parrish was assigned to Naval Intelligence, analyzing reports from across the Pacific Theater. Wanting to do more than read about the war, he requested reassignment and was attached to the U.S. Marines as a forward observer, coordinating carrier-based airstrikes on islands across the Central, South and Southwest Pacific. Altogether he made five amphibious beach landings, including Iwo Jima.

When the war concluded, Parrish was assigned to the occupational forces in Hiroshima, Japan, where he spent six months as a medical corpsman and became known as “Hershey Joe” for giving the children chocolate. Through 51 months of combat duty, he was promoted to ensign, lieutenant junior grade and lieutenant.

After his discharge, Parrish enrolled in the University of Texas School of Law. He practiced law in Plainview, Texas, for two years before entering Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While there he noticed a student from North Carolina, Frances “Emmy” Thomas, working at the campus snack bar. After she made him a milkshake, he immediately declared she would be the woman he married. The couple spent 62 years together, Emmy dying two years and one day before her husband.

Parrish pastored Baptist churches in Oklahoma for two years before becoming legal counsel and then vice president for development at Wayland Baptist College in Plainview. After eight years at Wayland, he moved to Baylor University where he spent 22 years, retiring in 1985 as vice president for development emeritus.

During his Baylor career, Parrish headed fundraising efforts that renovated and erected many of the campus’ buildings. He was instrumental in the creation of Student Foundation, the Heritage Club, the Development Council, and Baylor Parents League.

After his retirement, Parrish worked as a development consultant for numerous higher education and benevolent institutions, including Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, which honored him with its Distinguished Service Award. Parrish spent many years teaching a Sunday school class at First Baptist, Waco, and regularly preached in nursing homes and jails. A popular speaker, Parrish regularly addressed Waco-area service clubs on an array of topics, especially U.S. history and American literature. A passionate learner and book lover, his personal library contained thousands of volumes, all of which he’d read and enjoyed discussing. He authored several professional publications on education and fundraising, as well as a book on the Civil War, The Saga of the Confederate Ram Arkansas: The Mississippi Valley Campaign, 1862.

He was a member of the Texas Bar Association and the Rotary Club, and was also a Master Mason AF, AM, honored for 75 years of membership. He served on the boards of the United Way, the Heart O’ Texas Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Keep Waco Beautiful and the Waco-McLennan County Library.

Parrish is survived by his sons, Mike Parrish and wife, Julibeth; and Maxey Parrish and wife, Susanne, all of Waco; his grandchildren, Annabeth Parrish and fiancé, Mickey Kosarek, Mary Parrish-Iles and husband, Herman Iles, and Ted Parrish.

The family expresses its heartfelt gratitude to caregivers, Stacy Williams and D’Ann Martin, and the compassionate staffs of Providence Hospice and The Brazos of Waco.

Memorials may be made to the Tom Z. and Frances E. Parrish Endowed Scholarship Fund at Baylor University, One Bear Place #97050, Waco, TX 76798, or a charity of your choice. The family invites you to leave a message or memory in our “Tribute Wall” at

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Thomas Z Parrish, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home

6101 Bosque Blvd.
Waco, TX 76710





11:00 AM
First Baptist Church of Waco

500 Webster Avenue
Waco, TX 76706


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