‘Together we look after one another’

Gary Parrish was born in Grand Prairie, Alta. in 1942. His parents moved west and ended up in Prince George in 1952. His father found work in the logging industry and worked many years as a faller in the Chief Lake area.  

Gary grew up and went to school in Chief Lake until he was 14. During the summer months, he worked with his father as a horse logger. It was hard work but he managed to keep up. When he made the decision to quit school, his father gave him three options: work in the sawmill, go back to school or go into town and get a job.  

Gary said, “I had $35 in my pocket and I thought I was rich. I took option three and left home. I knew people in Regina, Sask., so I headed east to find work. I returned to Prince George in 1961 and worked as a faller in the bush. I married my long-time sweetheart May Taylor in Quesnel on December 24, 1961.”

May was born in Prince George in 1943.    

May worked at the Westside Grill in Quesnel until she got married and then the newlyweds moved to Prince George. Gary immediately framed a 12’ x 24’ cabin and they moved in before it was completed.  

May said, “We probably moved in to soon because when the temperature dropped to minus 60 everything froze including the potatoes we had stored in the refrigerator. We lived through it and it didn’t seem to matter much because we were in love.

 “In the spring, we moved the cabin a mile down the road onto our own property in Ferndale in the Upper Fraser area. Gary finished the house and two years after we were married the first of our five children arrived. I was a stay-at-home mom and we raised all five of our children on that piece of property. Our five children gave us 10 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren and of course they are all perfect in every way.” 

Gary worked as a heavy-duty machine operator and a truck driver until he bought two trucks and formed his own company. He did contract work for the next 20 years and eventually sold the company.  

They moved to Alberta in 1998and bought a farm. Gary farmed and drove truck on the side for the next 15 years. May worked as the cook at the Husky Truck stop. 

Life was good when suddenly Gary suffered a stroke in 2013. They were forced to sell everything and move back to Prince George.  

Gary said, “I had three strokes and a serious heart attack and I was forced into retirement. I had a hard time coping with that. I spent many months in a wheel chair until I progressed to a cane. I hated being dependent upon a cane so I started giving them away to people I met that I felt needed a cane more than I did. May just went out and bought me another one.  

 “I am still recovering and with the help of May I am getting along quite well. Without the help of May’s strong and steady arm I would be in deep trouble. Together we look after one another. I am not about to give up because I still want to take May out dancing.”

May said, “I run the snow blower now because I have the legs and Gary manages the snow removal process from his chair. He is the coach and keeps all the equipment in good running condition. 

 “I gave Gary a dog for Christmas and now Daisy is his best friend and his constant companion. That gift has turned out to be great therapy for both of us.

 “Before this pandemic we would regularly attend the Old Time Fiddlers jam sessions on Thursday night and the bimonthly dances at the Brunswick Street senior centre.

“We just want to take this opportunity to thank our many friends for including us and for giving us a dance now and then even though they know Gary’s agility is limited due to his stroke. We love you for always greeting us at the dance when we walk in and extending us a hand in friendship. You have no idea what that does for both of us. We are both anxious to get back to our dancing. 

 “If it wasn’t for our family and friends, our life would be pretty empty.  Friends like John Broderick and all the other Old Time Fiddlers as well as Angie, Jean, Marie and Henry and everyone else at the Brunswick Street senior centre. We miss seeing all of you.”