Helen Parrish, former citizen of the year, dies

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Helen E. Parrish, former Chilton County Citizen of the Year and namesake for Clanton First United Methodist Church’s Activity Center, has died.

Parrish passed away Monday at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster. She was 86.

CFUMC Pastor Larry Anderson said Parrish left an indelible mark not only on the church, but all of Chilton County.

“She was the single most important figure in the history of the First United Methodist Church,” said Anderson. “She is lovingly referred to as ‘Saint Helen’ by the people of our church — that’s a term of respect and endearment.”

Anderson called Parrish a “tremendous role model of an authentic Christian.”

Parrish served on CFUMC’s staff for more than 50 years, dedicating countless hours to helping others. She founded the church’s ministry of education for special children, offering learning opportunities to special needs children even before such classes were taught in public schools.

“She patiently taught special needs kids how to hold a fork or how to eat,” Anderson said. “She loved more people with the unconditional love of God than anyone I’ve known in life.”

Parrish also organized God’s World, a summer ministry for children throughout Clanton. She worked with young people on many other programs, while writing and directing a Christmas pageant for many years.

Anderson said Parrish mentored and influenced more than 20 people into pastoral ministry.

“She invested in people’s lives. Her life was not about Helen; it was about others in Jesus’ name,” Anderson said. “…I believe all of this came forth from her personal relationship with God.”

Parrish was named the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 1994.

Parrish was born Dec. 27, 1923, the daughter of Evan and Glennie Parrish. 1923 was also the year the church’s sanctuary was built.

“I think she felt a real connection to that building,” said Anderson.

She graduated from Chilton County High School and later Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo). She also studied at Columbia University in New York City.

She never married and dedicated her adulthood to the life and ministry of the church, Anderson said.

Parrish also worked as program director for WKLF and hosted a popular radio program.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, May 6 in the CFUMC sanctuary. Visitation will take place from 12:30-1:50 p.m.

Burial will follow the 2 p.m. service at Clanton City Cemetery.