Eastern Wake County lost more than a prominent real estate fixture with the passing of William Parrish.
The region lost a friend, a family man and a mentor to many who are quick to attribute their success in business to him.
Parrish, 82, died at his home Friday, Aug. 28, after an extended illness.
Those who didn’t know Parrish personally would have a hard time missing the mark he made in the area in his 46 years working in real estate.
He founded Parrish Realty in 1969, starting off in a trailer on Zebulon’s Pony Road. The agency now has locations in Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon.
Olde Heritage Builders co-owner Betty Ray remembers the day in 1969 when Parrish hired her as a secretary at the Pony Road office, paying her $100 a week. Ray’s role quickly changed when it was determined typing was not her thing.
“I said I want to sell houses and he said I want to sell land, let’s do it,” Ray recalled. “William taught me everything I know and was such a mentor in my life. I’m always going to love him.”
Even when Ray moved on to work at other agencies and eventually established Olde Heritage, she says Parrish was her biggest supporter. She says that is what Parrish was to everyone he encountered.
“He helped so many poor people get into houses,” she said. “People admired him all these 40-to-50 years because he was such a hard worker – he was a pusher. He taught so many of us who went on to open our own companies.
“Everything I’ve ever done, I owe to William. He’s just so generous – he always wanted the best for his people and was always so happy for them,” Ray said.
‘Now you’ve finally got it’
Zebulon Realtor Dallas Pearce was coming out college when Parrish called and offered him a job.
He worked five years with Parrish Realty starting in 1976, opening the Knightdale location and managing the Zebulon office during that time, and returned to the agency for another two years starting in 1995 before eventually starting his own company in 2005.
“I owe him a great deal,” Pearce said of Parrish. “I learned a lot of the do’s and don’ts in business by being around him. He was good to me and a great friend.”
Pearce said he learned the ropes of the real estate business – how to sell property, layout subdivisions, be a good negotiator – but that Parrish taught him something more important than those skills. That was the topic of what Pearce considers to be the most pleasant exchange he ever shared with Parrish, after the two finished working on a deal together several years ago.
“I told him I learned to have a love and compassion for all people,” Pearce recalled. “He just smiled and said, ‘Now you’ve finally got it.’ He was proud of all the other things I had learned, but they weren’t the ones he placed the most emphasis on. That was the greatest conversation we ever had.”
Pearce had the opportunity to visit Parrish the day before he passed away and thank him for the success he’s experienced over his 41 years in real estate.
Service a recurring theme
Parrish was born May 26, 1933 to Otis Bryant Parrish and Ruby Barham Parrish. He had nine siblings.
He worked for a paving company in Richmond, Va. and as a driver for Raleigh Bonded Warehouse before serving in the Army in Germany during the Korean War.
After graduating at the top of his class from Hardbarger Business College in Raleigh, Parrish went on to work 12 years with the N.C. Department of Revenue until opening Parrish Realty. The agency continues to operate under the creed he established: “Hard work, service to others, and fairness to all.”
Parrish, who also owned and operated a construction company, was a faithful member of Zebulon Baptist Church and supporter of the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club.
Zebulon showed its appreciation for Parrish’s involvement in the community, twice naming him the Citizen of the Year – most recently in 2003.
Parrish is survived by his wife of 62 years, Magaline Horton Parrish; two children, Nathan and wife Lisa Parrish and Renee and husband Gregg Baker; two grandchildren, Ruby and William; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
His visitation was Monday and funeral service was Tuesday at Zebulon Baptist Church.