Jerry Parrish was like a textbook in the closing weeks before the end of the school year. Moving from meetings to classrooms, then the playing fields to the driving sessions for students, associates and close friends.
Parrish has become one of the most prominent faces in Rappahannock High School history, and even more so in the Northern Neck. But this comes at a time when Parrish is saying goodbye and packing his personal office items to retire as an instructor from the high school and career field of education.
“I just knew it was time for me to do something different where I’m able to do things differently,” Parrish said.
From cursive writing to using multiplication tables, Parrish shared some of the tools he missed from his early years teaching. But leaving it behind, Parrish said he feels confident turning over the duties of instruction to the rising group of coaches including football coach William West.
“It’s been a pleasure working with him and I’m sure we’ll stay in contact as things continue to go on within the school system,” West said.
He added that he is appreciative of all the advice given by his former coach in Parrish, both on and off the field.
“When I get to coaching kids of players I’ve coached I think it’s enough to know that it’s time to get out,” Parrish said smiling.
The future retiree said he won’t know how he feels until September about his retirement. He drew comparisons to when he retired from coaching with the uncertainty of his plans.
Parrish, who is a native of Blackstone, is retiring after 39 years in the field of education. He began in Fauquier County in 1974 from Appalachian State teaching at Cedar Lee Junior High School and then at Fauquier High School six seasons later. He then left to spend his remaining years at Rappahannock High School.
Over the 39 years, Parrish admitted there have been a lot of changes not just on the playing fields and courts, but also in the classroom. During his tenure, he has served under five superintendents and seen quite a bit of change over the years even to his own teaching and coaching methods.
“Change is always subtle here. Change isn’t something you do on a drastic nature, but change is good,” Parrish said.
During his tenure as the football coach, Parrish led three separate district champions, two regional champs and made two state football playoff appearances. He also coached volleyball for six seasons collecting a pair of district awards.
Softball and Girls Basketball Coach Ellen Gaines was choked up when asked about Parrish.
“I’ve enjoyed working beside him for 28 years. He has given so much to the kids of Richmond County as a P.E. teacher, driving instructor, coach and athletic director,” Gaines said. “His retirement is well deserved and I hope he enjoys every moment.”
Rappahannock High School Principal Jesse Boyd explained that Parrish made his job a lot easier over the past six years and will miss him.
“I think I’ve really been spoiled having him here. I’ve learned a lot from him and it’s going to be a tough set of shoes to fill.”
Baseball coach Larry Barker not only rubbed elbows in the same office with Parrish, but they also coached with one another for 10 years in the mid 1980s. The two saw their roles at Rappahannock High change afterwards sending Parrish to become the athletic director and Barker to take the reigns of the baseball program.
Barker said what impressed him the most was the relationship Parrish, himself, coach Paul Yackel and now the late Stephen Packett had with each other. At most times, the four coaches and their families would share meals together.
“We had a really good unity as far as among coaches because we knew once football season got started we would have a lot of football widows with us,” Barker said. “It’s something I’ve taken from him. He tried to maintain the family unit and the camaraderie among the coaches and the coaches’ families.”
Barker said he believes having a solid and stable coaching foundation is what helped Rappahannock’s football team reach the state playoffs in 1988 and 1992, and build more successful programs at the high school.
“I think people relate the athletics and we do have a great community pride in the things we do,” Parrish said.
Parrish is one of the three athletic directors from the Northern Neck District to retire this school year. He joins Steve Swope, of Colonial Beach, and Lancaster’s Fred Birchett.
After some time off, Parrish said he plans to return and work part-time on the athletic fields and looks forward to the new renovations. He credits his high school sweetheart and wife Sue, of 41 years, for sharing him with the school and making the move with him from Fauquier to Warsaw.
“That’s a true statement—behind every good man is a great woman,” Parrish said, adding that he plans to take time to spend with her and their extended family.