Dr. Ray Parkinson (March 22, 1922 - June 28, 2018)

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  • "I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ray Parkinson and his..."
  • ""I shall pass this way but once; any good I can do or any..."
    - Joan Thornley
  • "What a fine, kind, progressive gentleman, who loved music,..."
    - Kenneth Jones
  • - Nanci Dunbrook
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It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Ray (Raymond) Parkinson at age 96. Ray lived a rich and rewarding life devoted to his family and to his commitment to improving the world around him. He will live on in the fond memories of those who were fortunate enough to have known him through his medical practice, his political life, his public service and diverse interests. Ray held highest what happens between people. As a result, he was always able to contribute to gatherings. Ray had the gift of being an enthusiastic listener and stayed connected with the community through his life. His participation, leadership and encouragement was appreciated by a long list of organizations.

Ray's values and commitment to democratic socialist values developed through his heritage and early development in the Depression. Ray was born to Alice Redman and John Parkinson on March 22nd, 1922 and raised in culturally diverse North Winnipeg. His pianist mother imparted strict musical discipline and Ray became an accomplished accordion player at age 8. He played for dance bands and musical shows which began his life-long love of music and dancing. Ray became active in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) at an early age in the footsteps of his father (a conscientious objector who enrolled and served in the trenches as a medic in WWI). These values and commitment to improving the world carried through Ray's long life.

Ray's medical career began in his teens when he enrolled in the St. John's Ambulance Corp. He served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and Air Force (Medical Services) during WWII. After the war, Ray entered UBC and graduated with a BA (Honours) in 1950 serving as President of the Pre-Med Student Society. He was accepted into UBC's first class of the new faculty of Medicine, graduating in 1954. He was invited by the World University Service of Canada to attend a post-war student seminar in Breda, Holland and a tour into Germany. Experience of the destruction of war reinforced his commitment to working towards positive change in society.

Ray went on to earn his speciality in the under-supported field of psychiatry from McGill University and to focus his public life on the promotion of universal health care. As a federal candidate in Vancouver Center in 1965, he fought for the national implementation of Medicare debating Judy LaMarsh, the Minister of Health. Success on this front came upon his election to the BC Legislature in 1966, where as the NDP MLA for Vancouver Burrard he was able to vote to bring Medicare to this province - one of the proudest moments of his life.

Ray was equally committed to improvement of post-secondary education, with appointments to UBC and SFU as well as other appointments by all parties in government. He held repeated terms as Clinical Associate Professor Emeritus with the UBC Medical Faculty, as well as terms on the Universities Council of BC and the Discovery Foundation. Ray served on the SFU Board of Governors from 1972 to 1981, and as Chairman from 1976, bringing stability during the years of student and faculty unrest. In 1989, SFU awarded him an honorary degree with accolades including him in the select group of the "few who combine the ability, dedication and drive to effect change".

Ray's interests ranged from soccer, collecting music boxes and accordions to all things nautical. He continued to impart his values and commitment by volunteering. He served as Chairman of the Vancouver Maritime Museum board for many years reflecting a passion for historical preservation and nautical antiques. During those years the board brought into being the point, pier and harbour for historic vessels.

Ray met his first wife Isobel (Ella) McWilliam (1922-2007) during the war and had four children Graham (Laurie), Laura (Stephen) who predeceased him in 2009, Jennifer (Duncan) and Colin (Aishah). He was delighted to spend time with his grandchildren, Annika, Cameron, Felix, Neil, Laila and Inman. He is also survived by his beloved second wife Beverley Joan Sharp.

Ray was a passionate and fearless traveller, always studying the politics, history, culture and economics of the "non-beaten paths" to which he would venture. He took his young family by land through the Balkans and Soviet Union during the years when tourism there was unknown. Other trips with the family included North Africa and overland to Central America. Ray continued his love of travel with Beverley visiting the US, Europe, Australia, Ecuador and the Galapagos.

Ray's positive outlook was a foremost quality appreciated by many people over his long life: his family, his friends, his colleagues and his patients. His retreat from a busy life and legacy to his family is the cabin on Bowyer Island which will remain a gathering place where music will be played, dances will be danced and memories of Ray will live on.

Ray's values are summed up by a quote from Albert Schweitzer:
"There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the highest creed."

A celebration of Ray's life will be held 2 pm September 9th at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, 1905 Ogden Avenue, Vancouver, B.C.
Published in The North Shore News on Aug. 31, 2018
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