James E. Parrish

James E. Parrish

This morning around 6 a.m., an empty coffee cup told us that something was not right.

And, indeed, it wasn’t. The owner of that cup, and the man who met his friends for coffee every single morning for lord-knows-how-many years, Jim Parrish, was missing. On Feb. 2, 2016, Jim left the Methow Valley on a permanent basis for an even more heavenly spot.

Needless to say, the valley will never be quite the same. For the past 60 years, you could count on things like Jim showing up at the Senior Center in Twisp for dinner three times a week, ordering his double decaf nonfat lah-TAY (as he pronounced it) from the Java Man, showing up like clockwork for his AA meetings, or seeing him tending his garden on the “south 40.”

How did this good-natured soul come to be a Methow fixture? Let’s start at the beginning.

James E. Parrish was born in Odessa, Washington, on Jan. 14, 1923, to pharmacist Rosco John Parrish, and mother and drugstore manager Stella Pershall. He attended Deer Park High School, where he loved playing in a dance band with his younger brother, Jack.

Then, like so many others of the Greatest Generation, Jim served in the U.S. Army during World War II in Normandy, Germany and North Africa. He left the service in March 1946, and returned home — or nearly so — winding up in Pullman, where he earned a history degree from what was then known as Washington State College.

Jim taught high school history in Okanogan until he got the chance to purchase the feed store in Twisp, and he moved there in 1954. Life was good, and it got even better when Jane Batdorf entered Jim’s life.

They were married in 1965, which spurred Jim to move to Winthrop, where Jane worked forever and a day at Farmers State Bank. Jim, meanwhile, was putting in the first of his many years at Wagner’s Lumber Mill in Twisp.

Jim became a devoted citizen of Winthrop, where he was commander of the American Legion post, a longtime member of the Honor Guard, and served on the town council. And surely his greatest contribution to the valley was adding to its friendliness and neighborly spirit.

After retiring from the mill, Jim devoured history books, the occasional “whodunit,” and read at least one biography of every U.S. president. He kept the garden looking good, rooted on the Mariners and the Cougs, and placed $2 bets ($5 if he was feeling lucky) on the Triple Crown horse races.

So that’s what a life well-lived looks like. And his family, which includes a passel of nieces and nephews spread from California to Montana to Washington, say that Jim was happiest when he was in the company of his countless friends of the valley, as he genuinely cared for and about them. They are especially grateful to those who contributed to Uncle Jim’s well-being by keeping an eye on him in his later years. And they send enormous and eternal thanks to Larry and Louise Higbee, Jim’s dear friends, neighbors, and guardian angels.

So now what? Well, the family says you can count on a community event this spring or summer, where we can honor Jim and personally thank all the citizens of the Methow Valley who enriched Jim’s life immeasurably. We’ll make sure the coffee is fresh and hot — just how Jim would like it.   

Should friends desire to make a memorial contribution, please send your contribution to the Methow Valley Senior Center, P.O. Box 296, Twisp, WA 98856.