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Marilyn Parkinson

1923 ~ 2013
After a long, often difficult life, Marilyn White Parkinson died peacefully at home in Indio, California on 12 October 2013. Her son and devoted caregiver, David, was at her side. Although she was born into a clan of divas and alpha males, Marilyn still managed to stand out. Not a stranger to the spotlight, she would effortlessly fade into the background as she let others in the family shine, particularly her own children. Although she was a great listener, she was also an entertaining recontour. Her stories always carried a punch. In describing her life as a child of the depression, she wryly observed, "Things were tough, but never so bad we had to fire the maid."
Born to Edna Amelia Hansen and James O. White on 16 October 1923 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Marilyn attended the University of Utah Stewart Training School and played in the foothills northeast of the city with her two older brothers and younger sister. After her father lost his produce business in the early years of the Great Depression, the family relocated to Los Angeles, California. On the way out of town, they stopped by the Salt Lake Tabernacle where Marilyn was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Her hair still wet and a new church membership certificate in hand, she, her three siblings and parents set out on a California adventure.
It was in Southern California that she developed her talents as a pianist, singer, dancer, artist, poet and scholar. She graduated from Los Angeles High School, Class of Summer 1941, as the senior class Vice President. Although she was accepted to Stanford University as an undergraduate, money was tight, so her parents made her a deal: If she would attend UCLA for a year, a much cheaper option, they would send her to Palo Alto the following year. In the meantime, she pledged Chi Omega, joined the UCLA dance team, and fell in love with the Westwood campus. So she stayed put. She studied hard during the school year, spending her summers working as a bilingual foreman on her father's potato ranch in Driggs, Idaho. A city girl at heart, she was as comfortable with guns, horses and farm equipment as she was with a credit card shopping on the Miracle Mile.
She graduated from UCLA in 1945 with a Bachelor's degree in History. Although she turned down a screen test with MGM studios, she did pursue a glamorous career as a stewardess for Western Airlines. However, her wings were clipped when she married a handsome young Second Lieutenant, Richard Parkinson (Parky) whom she met on a blind date during the War. It was just the beginning of many epic battles. They wrote each other for two years, while he served in the Pacific and she finished her education, and were married on 7 January 1947 in the Westwood Community Church. The following day, they travelled to Salt Lake where their union was sealed in the LDS Temple.
The young couple then moved to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina where Parky finished his military career as a paratrooper in the 82nd airborne. Two moves, three children and eight years later, and with the support of his wife, Parky graduated from Tulane Medical School in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1955. After an internship and residency, the young family moved to Indio, California where they established a successful medical practice. She suffered a near-fatal bout of encephalitis in the 1959. Although she temporarily lost her vision and was unable to walk on her own, she made a full recovery. After she regained her strength, she gave birth to her fourth child. At the age of 50, when her youngest son was just 10, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a Halstead radical mastectomy. Again she recovered.
Marilyn loved to play bridge, counsel her children late into the night, read until dawn and talk politics with both conservatives and liberals alike. It was never clear whether she was a Republican or a Democrat; she was just reasonable when it came to politics. She was a devoted member of the LDS Church, but on her own terms. She preferred reading a good book to attending Relief Society. She loved to sing with the ward choir and lead the singing in Primary, but she also enjoyed a good cup of coffee and a menthol cigarette. She faithfully wrote her missionary sons and grandchildren, and even allowed them to attend BYU. During family weddings, as she waited outside the Temple, she was never bitter. She knew the rules. A hypocrite she was not.
Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents, husband and two older brothers, Jim and Bill White. She is survived by her sister, Jackie Nokes Klass; her four sons, Richard (Mavis), James (Susan), Brett (Kelly) and David; thirteen grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.
She was honored in a private graveside service in Indio, California.

Published in Salt Lake Tribune from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10, 2013
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