David William Parke, M.D., 97, died peacefully, surrounded by his family, on November 13, 2020 in North Branford, CT. The majority of his adult life was spent in Meriden, Connecticut in the practice of ophthalmology with his loving wife, Joyce, three children, multiple rescued cats, and a series of large, generally overweight, and continuously shedding dogs.
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Born in Hartford, Connecticut on November 19, 1922, Dave was part of a large Irish family with his family emigrating to the United States in December 1920. A product of Meriden public schools, he went to Aurora University in Illinois because it permitted him the opportunity to work to pay his tuition and expenses while enrolled full-time. During his college years he began dating Joyce Erikson, another Meriden resident working her way through Aurora. Immediately upon graduation in 1944 Dave enlisted in the Army with the goal of serving overseas and returning to teach high school English. The Army had other ideas. First it sent him to North Carolina State University to become an engineer—a subject in which he had no interest. Then, the Army determined it had a more acute need for doctors (also something in which he had no interest at the time) and sent him to medical school at Ohio State University. Along the way, he and Joyce were married with Dave in his Army uniform, and they settled into the life of a relatively impoverished medical student with a spouse teaching second grade. His children well remember the many stories of turning two eggs and one strip of bacon into a delicious dinner for two and of volunteering to be a human guinea pig in medical laboratories to make ends meet. (Both Dave and Joyce remembered these as joyful years.)
Late in medical school he developed a passionate interest in ophthalmology and was accepted for residency at the Wilmer Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Before moving to Baltimore to begin that three year program, Dave and Joyce had their first child, David Wilkin Parke II. While in Baltimore, they had their second child, Marna Joyce Parke.
After completion of training, the family moved to Meriden, had a third child, Lissa Ann Parke, and Dave became one of the first ophthalmologists in central Connecticut, founding in Meriden what later became Eye Physicians of Central Connecticut. Dave and Joyce then moved to Meriden, and made the area their home for the next fifty years.
Dave began a career pattern characterized by intense community leadership and lifelong philanthropy. His children well remember a professional life characterized by weekend housecalls. Their father often returned with a bag of tomatoes or homemade pasta—payment he frequently accepted in lieu of money. Never in his 55 year medical career did he turn anyone away for financial reasons—occasionally even paying out of his own pocket for a patient’s medication or glasses.
He served six terms as Chief of the Medical Staff at Meriden/Wallingford Hospital (now Mid-State Medical Center) and was on its Board of Directors continuously for over 30 years. Dave chaired the Police and Fire Commission, was President of the Lions Club, and served on the Board of Directors for the Salvation Army. He spent decades in leadership positions in the United Way, and the Bradley Home. He was elected on multiple occasions as President of the Connecticut Society of Eye Physicians.
Dave was also a leader at the national level in his profession of ophthalmology. He had a strong belief in the importance and value of personal advocacy. He focused his attention on areas of public policy, patient safety, and quality of care. The American Academy of Ophthalmology named him to chair both its national committees on State Affairs and on Government Relations.
In addition to defining himself by contributions to community and service to patients, Dave engaged his entire family in shared passions for books, travel, art, music, the wilderness, and fishing. Each child could cast a fly to trout. Joyce engaged them in community service projects and both encouraged an appreciation for lifelong learning and personal humility and empathy.
In 1988, Dr. Parke retired from medical and surgical ophthalmology after thirty-two years of active practice. For many physicians, this would be the start of a well-earned retirement. For Dave Parke it was the beginning of another professional career to last over another twenty years. He went to New York to train in care for patients with low vision and blindness not curable by medicine or surgery. During the next several decades he helped thousands more patients as Low Vision Consultant for the Connecticut Board of Education and Services for the Blind, on the Committee on Access to Care of Uninsured and Underinsured of the State of Connecticut, as Director of the Low Vision Clinic of the Masonic Health Facility, and as clinical professor at Yale University’s Department of Ophthalmology.
His love of English and writing was finally recognized when he became editor of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s magazine for senior ophthalmologists—a position he held for fourteen years. He finally retired from that position when his eyesight failed from macular degeneration—the same disease for which he treated thousands of patients. Before doing so, at age 92, he wrote in an editorial, “With the passing years, I have become an old geezer. Gradually I have been aware of the changing roles that can come with aging, especially when children and grandchildren who have known unconditional love and respect show those same characteristics toward an elderly parent or grandparent. Their interest in my daily welfare is overwhelming; even if a little stifling at first.” (He always maintained a strong sense of independence.)
His many contributions to profession and community were recognized by receipt of numerous honors and awards including the 2002 Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and 2008 Guest of Honor at its Annual Meeting. He received the 2012 Distinguished Service Award from the Connecticut State Medical Society, and Knight of the Blind from Lions Clubs International. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Aurora University, and was inducted into the Meriden Hall of Fame.
Dave Parke was preceded in death in 2008 by his beloved and loving wife, Joyce. He is survived by his three children—David Wilkin Parke II, M.D. (Julie Thorne Parke, M.D.) of Tiburon, California, Marna Parke Borgstrom (Eric Nils Borgstrom) of Guilford, Connecticut, and Lissa Parke Thomson (James Michael Thomson) of San Diego, California. He also felt particularly blessed to have seven grandchildren (David Wilkin Parke III, M.D.(Marion G. Parke), Laura Thorne Parke, Lindsey Parke Ridgway (J. Grayson Ridgway), Christopher Parke Borgstrom, Peter Eric Borgstrom, Brian James Thomson (Irene O. Thomson), and Kaitlin Joyce Thomson) and five great-grandchildren (David Wilkin Parke IV, Margaret Sloane Parke, Benjamin Heazle Parke, John Parke Ridgway, and Elizabeth Speer Ridgway). During his last months of life, Dave was wonderfully cared for by his physician and good friend Peter N. Herbert, M.D. and his caregiver and friend Fay McFarlane.
Due to the current pandemic all services at this time will be private. A public Celebration of Life will be announced at a future date. The John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home, 88 East Main St, Meriden, CT 06450 has been entrusted with funeral arrangements. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Connecticut Hospice at www.hospice.com , Yale-New Haven Hospital at www.givetoynhh.org , or the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology at www.aao.org/foundation. For online condolences please visit jferryfh.com.