Photo by L.G. Patterson
Good fences. Good neighbors.
Melody and Fred Parry have been our neighbors for four decades. We first became neighbors when they moved into a house across the street from my wife and I. Immediately, Melody arranged to build a white picket fence. I don’t think she did it to keep us out. Rather, it was an incarnation of the idyllic “little house with a white picket fence.”
She came by that honestly, having grown up playing with her sisters Christy and Leanne, and brother Scott at the Garnett Farm.
Yes, a white fence graces that farm, bordering a red brick home built in the 1880s. The farmhouse perches above the outskirts of tiny Marion, a once-bustling Missouri River town in Cole Cou nty, which very nearly became the site of the Missouri state capitol.
Melody’s father, Rodney Garnett, worked that farm when he was growing up. Among his chores was the daily milking of their herd of Holstein cows. He would deliver the milk to Landwehr Dairy, a few miles south in Jefferson City.
The old red brick house is a beauty with Georgian Revival and Italianate influences. It was built on the site of the original 1821 home, and a rear wing survives. The home incorporates bricks recycled from the original structure and is the centerpiece to the Garnett Farm Historic District.
So, it was no surprise when Melody and Fred, and their newborn son Max, moved away from us to a beautiful historic red brick property here in Columbia. But we were still neighbors. As the crow flies, our homes are only a block apart.
We continued to see Melody around the neighborhood as she and Fred raised their two sons. Sometimes, I would run into Melody walking the dog with her sister, Christy. Melody was always cheerful, even when facing adversity.
Family was always important to Melody. And pets. Years ago, our beloved Yorkie — home alone with our teenage daughter, Christy — suffered a seizure. Desperate for help, Christy ran out of the house with Bonky in her arms, and the Parrys jumped into action. Fred drove Christy and Bonky to the vet and stayed with them through the entire ordeal. Although Bonky did not survive the seizure, the Parrys had been supportive in our time of need.
Support. It’s a recurring theme in Melody Parry’s life. Her legacy is assured as the founder of the Women’s Health Care Alliance, and she served on several association boards, including True North of Columbia. Hers was a familiar voice on KFRU and KPLA as host of “The Woman Show.” Oh, and she cofounded 15 award- winning magazines. But she still found time to have fun, whether it was hiking the Grand Canyon, running the Chicago Marathon or supporting her sons Max and Nick.
Melody and I followed similar pursuits: both graduates of Jefferson City Senior High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. For nearly three decades, I’ve contributed to several Parry Publishing magazines. Even though Fred and I come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, our friendship prevails. Indeed, the Parrys have always been supportive of my journalism career. To wit, this is my 160th column for Inside Columbia magazine. And the saddest.
Over the years, I’ve had a hundred editors, none more astute and efficient as you, Melody Parry. More important, as you made a positive difference in the world, you took the time to appreciate the beauty of a good fence.
Rest well, good neighbor.
John Drake Robinson is a former director of the Missouri Division of Tourism. Read more of John’s rants at johndrakerobinson.com/blog.