Before he retired as New Canaan High School’s assistant principal in 2003, Gary Field had wanted to construct what he calls an ‘Emeritus Wall of Fame’ near the auditorium or other conspicuous spot.
Composed of plaques listing the names, years taught at NCHS and, importantly, a slogan relating to the honored educator, the would-be Wall of Fame in one special case for Field would honor a man that he said forever changed his life.
“In Ray Parry’s case,” Field said, “I think his slogan would be: ‘Young people rely on us to touch their lives in some meaningful way.’ As for me, I know for a fact that they have certainly touched mine.’ ”
He added: “It was wonderful working with him and he was brilliant and he loved kids and they loved him. He was the most influential person I ever knew. He was a giant, in my book.”
Parry, a science teacher at the high school whose career spanned five decades, died Thursday at age 86. Visiting hours will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday at Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road in Fairfield. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Fairfield, with interment to follow in St. Thomas Cemetery with Military Honors.
Born April 12, 1929 to Raymond W. and Marie (Cosgrove) Parry, Ray Parry was the husband for more than 60 years of the late Ann (Senchak) Parry.
In the last five years of his life, Ray Parry lost his wife as well as a son, James Parry, granddaughter, Melissa Pinion, and great-granddaughter, Ashley Jo Robinson.
Feeling down after such profound losses, Ray Parry was attended to by his loving son Tim, a 1987 NCHS graduate who set about collecting well-wishing videos for his dad’s 85th birthday. They can be seen here:
Those in the video include former students as well as colleagues—in the case of Mark “2-5-0” Rearick, both of those relationships in one. A ’67 NCHS grad, Rearick had Parry as a biology teacher in his freshman year.
“I remember a couple of things about his class as a freshman,” Rearick recalled. “Number one, he had plaques all over the wall, appreciation and thanks from the U.S. Olympic Committee, because he had donated money and he would talk about it. He would tell us that it was his obligation—he was a patriotic guy and he loved sports. That impressed me about the guy, right off the bat.”
Raised on Bridgeport’s east side, Ray Parry attended public schools in the city and graduated from Harding High School in 1947. Four years later, in 1951, he was part of the first-ever graduating class from Fairfield University.
He served as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to 1955—in 1952 marrying Senshack, a first-generation American of Czech descent who’d graduated from Harding one year after Ray.
He came to New Canaan High School in 1959 and worked there (both at the former NCHS, now Saxe, and current facility) through 1990. He also served as an assistant football coach for the Rams from 1959 to 1967, and ran the athletic department’s ticket operations from 1968 to 1990. Ray also served as New Canaan’s equipment manager from 1980 to 1990.
Rearick said he marvels now at much of what Parry was able to do as assistant football coach under Joe Sikorski. He also doubled as chief scout for the team.
“I don’t know how the hell he did a scouting report, how he would view the opposition,” Rearick said. “I don’t think they did a lot of film in those days—a lot of schools didn’t have it. But he would present the scouting report and he was the line coach, to boot, and just a really nice guy.”
Parry often played the “good cop” to the highly respected Sikorski’s head coaching style.
Once he came to work at NCHS in the fall of 1973, Rearick recalled, “I got to know Ray a lot better as a colleague, and he was just such a kind and caring fellow. He had a twinkle in his eye. He’d give you a dig and let you know he was just kidding, nothing was ever mean-spirited.”
It was a quality that Field counted on when he shared a classroom together Parry in the old high school.
“I was teaching biology and wanted my students to gain an appreciation for animal husbandry,” Field recalled. “I therefore brought a 60-pound Hereford calf to school in my VW bug. Once at school, I tied the animal to Ray’s desk and went for a cup of coffee. Ray arrived and went ballistic. By the end of the day, he was fine with the event but it certainly took him by surprise that morning.”
Field had been hired by Parry, who called him to offer a job in the science department while Field was in basic training for the Connecticut National Guard in Fort Dix, N.J. (Field was known to Parry, having taught students there the prior semester.)
Field called Parry “the best department chair in the high school.”
“In fact, our department was the bane of faculty meetings as we would all sit in the back and make candid remarks as the meetings proceeded,” he recalled “We were a tight group that loved and respected our department leader.”
“Ray was my mentor and taught me how to organize and to take the time to help ‘the little guy or gal’ who might be struggling. He was relentless in making sure his students excelled but more importantly, that they gained an appreciation for learning. He loved virtually every student or athlete he encountered.”
An “incredible listener” with a “remarkable sense of humor,” Parry often took the time “to have heart to heart conversations with me,” Field recalled.
“He wanted me to succeed and I learned much from him.”
After retiring from New Canaan Public Schools, Ray Parry served as equipment manager for Western Connecticut State University’s athletic department from 1990 to 2001. He was heavily involved in the transition of the school’s athletic department from aging facilities at the school’s Midtown Campus to its location at the O’Neil Center at the WCSU Westside Campus, and assisted in the design and configuration of the equipment facilities there. He was inducted into WCSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 for his lifetime support to the Colonials athletic department.
Rearick recalled attending the dinner for that Hall of Fame induction with Rams football head coach Lou Marinelli and then-Athletic Director Vinny Iovino.
“I was honored” to attend the HOF dinner, Rearick said.
“He was just the kindest, gentlest, sweetest guy,” he said. “That Vinny and Lou made that, too, meant so much to Ray, because he was out of New Canaan 20 years by then. It was just a way to pay him back for all he had done. He was a terrific guy. A happy-go-lucky guy and a joy to be around.”
Iovino said that when he first came to New Canaan as athletic director, he was just 32 and wasn’t sure what the position involved.
“Ray was instrumental in helping me through that beginning period,” Iovino recalled. “I could always count on Ray’s support, loyalty and friendship. You could always count on him to be there for you. I am very lucky to be able to call Ray my friend. I will always be indebted to him.”
Ray Parry is credited with starting New Canaan High School’s summer learning program, as well as the New Canaan Summer Theater program.
In his career, Parry had taught with the National Science Foundation, both at Yale and Brown, and was a Master Teacher at Yale. He was also an assistant professor at University of Bridgeport.
He is survived by his loving children: sons, Kevin Parry and his wife, Calle Bailey of Brattleboro, Vt. and Timothy Parry and his wife, Ursula of Bridgeport; his daughters, Deborah Liptak and her husband, Steve of Fort Worth, Texas, and Maura Cain and her husband, John of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
He will also be missed by his cherished grandchildren, Adriane Lovern and her husband, Kenny of Justin, Texas, Audrey of Bedford, Texas, Jonathan Liptak of Denton, Texas, Sgt. Matthew Parry of the United States Army, Jeffrey Parry of Fairfield, Julia and Anna Cain of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and William Parry of Bridgeport; and great-granddaughters, Eve and Cassie Fedorovich of Albuquerque.