John Parrish slowly, and proudly, stacks a dozen plaques, letters and other awards from organizations in Knightdale on his kitchen table.
Several are from the Knightdale fire department, where he served for 30 years, including as chief in the 1980s. A couple are from the Town of Knightdale. There are more from the Knightdale Chamber of Commerce, including a “lifetime community service” award – one of two ever awarded.
His most prized award is a certificate of appreciation from Knightdale Baptist Church, where he has attended for 80 years.
Parrish, 91, might not be one of the oldest Knightdale residents, but he is one of the most accomplished. He was recently recognized by the town for his contributions through a large brick inset on the northwest corner of Knightdale Station Park.
Town officials, friends and family gathered on a cloudy afternoon last month to unveil the engraved stone in Parrish’s honor, labeled “for a lifetime of service to the citizens of Knightdale.” It lists his work as alderman from 1956-1968 and position as a council member from 1979-1987.
The stone is located in the northwest corner of the park, near the two shelters.
“How many things in Knightdale start with, ‘he’s the only one that knows,’” Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen joked to the several dozen attendees at the ceremony. “If we were to look in the dictionary and see ‘public servant,’ it should have your picture next to it.”
Hard work and faithfulness
Parrish’s family arrived in Knightdale in 1926, when it was hardly a town. His father, a blacksmith, built his shop where Parrish’s home sits now – one he rebuilt himself in 1956.
After three years in the Navy during World War II, where he advanced to Petty Officer 1st Class and Chief Engineer, Parrish worked as a technical supervisor for the North Carolina Equipment Company for 47 years.
Married for 68 years, he and his wife, Dorothy Parrish, arrived in Wallace, N.C. after their wedding, with an “old ragged Ford” and $12. In 1951, their family moved back to Knightdale, where he has lived ever since, raising three children. Now, they have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
On a warm 80-degree day, Parrish sways in a white swing surrounded by a well-groomed lawn and cheerful flowers.
Hard work, he said, is what keeps him going, his body active and mind sharp. He cares for his yard, repairs friends’ lawn mowers for free and grows tomatoes, keeping busy most hours of the day.
“That’s the one thing I haven’t done much in my life – sleep,” he said.