Poet and teacher Patricia “Pat” Jones Parnell, 93, formerly a longtime Falls Church City resident, died Thursday, March 22 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire following complications from heart surgery. She was born April 12, 1924 in Richmond, Virginia to Ruth Ardis (Seybolt) Jones and Dr. Basil Bradbury Jones.
Known in New Hampshire poetry circles as “the Queen of the Hoot,” Pat was an active member in the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program and was also a member of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, the Stratham Library Writers Group and the former Seacoast Writers Group. She was the author of two books of poetry, and her work has appeared in several anthologies.
She and her husband, Bill, raised four sons in Falls Church during the 1960s and ‘70s: William Basil, Ed, Larry and Howard. Pat and Bill were high school teachers for 20 years in the Fairfax County School System, where she taught English and he taught history and civics. They were also founding members of the Citizens for a Better City, active in the Falls Church Democratic Committee, and took on many causes, such as supporting housing desegregation efforts in the city and helping to raise money to build the Community Center for the city’s youth. They were communicants in the Saint James Parish.
After retiring to the New Hampshire’s Seacoast region in 1982, Pat went on to become Professor Emerita at Chester College of New England, (formally White Pines College), where she taught for many years. A graduate of Swarthmore College, Pat obtained a master’s degree in American history from Radcliffe College (now Harvard) in 1948. She and Bill became communicants of St. Michael Church in Exeter, NH, where both also served as home communion ministers for shut-ins.
While living in Stratham, she joined her sister Ruth in purchasing the King George Journal in King George County, Va., in 1983 and served as co-owner and contributing editor for many years. She and Bill were also active in the New Hampshire Democratic Committee and enjoyed traveling and organizing trips through the Elderhostel program.
After retiring from the college, Pat embraced her passion for writing full-time, and published two books: “Snake Woman and Other Explorations, Finding the Female in Divinity,” 2001, and “Talking with Birches, Poems of Family in Everyday Life,” 2004. She became a fixture in the New Hampshire Seacoast writing scene, authoring numerous poems and often reading at poetry hoots and open-mic events, while mentoring and encouraging many other writers to do the same.
She was actively writing poetry and editing the work of others right up to the time of her passing.
Pat is survived by four sons and their wives, William B. and Bernadette of Jupiter, Fl.; Edward J. and Ellen of Richmond, Va.; Lawrence J. and Janice of Lansdowne, Va.; and Howard D. and Mary of Falls Church, Va. She is also survived by three nieces, Sarah Ailey, wife of Jack, of Chicago, Ill.; Beverly Klunk, wife of Brian, of Stockton, Calif.; and Jessica Herrink of King George, Va. There are 11 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren; a nephew and his wife, Sean and Cindy Parnell of Easthampton, Mass.; a niece, Betsy Parnell of Holyoke, Mass.; and numerous grandnieces and grandnephews. Pat was predeceased by Bill in his 87th year; and by her sister, Ruth, also 87.
In memory of Pat, the family has shared her poem Ritual, about her relationship with Bill:
Every morning he wakes me,
gives me my first pill of the day,
placing it carefully in my open palm.
I pick it up, right thumb and forefinger,
place it in my mouth.
He hands me a cup
and I drink.
We both know.
Every gift given in love
Calling hours will be from 4 – 7 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Brewitt Funeral Home, 14 Pine St., Exeter, NH, 03833. A Mass is scheduled for noon Friday at St. Michael Church, Exeter, with a light luncheon for the congregation after the service.
Interment will be in Old Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Va., at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Pat’s memory to St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, St. Michael’s Church, 9 Lincoln St., Exeter, NH 03833. To sign an online guest book, visit www.brewittfuneralhome.com.