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Phyllis Thurlow (Smith) Parkinson

Longtime resident, rare book dealer, world traveler

Phyllis Parkinson. (Courtesy photo)

Phyllis Thurlow (Smith) Parkinson, longtime resident of Harvard, died Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at home surrounded by her family. She is survived by her husband of 68 years, William Hambleton Parkinson.

Born June 8, 1932, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Phyllis was the daughter of Henry and Elsie Smith, whose forebears established communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eastern Canada. She and Bill met as teenagers in Port Dover, Ontario.

Phyllis supported her husband’s pursuit of his doctoral degree by teaching and, in London, working in the jewelry department at Harrods. Their first son, Richard, was born in 1961 in England. The family moved to Harvard in 1962 as Bill began his career as science director of Harvard College Observatory (later Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). Their second son, Dougald, was born in 1963.

Phyllis was one of the first to introduce the Himalayan Persian cat to North America in the mid-1960s. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, where she was named marshal and led the Class of 1974 at commencement. She also was admitted to the master’s program in history at Harvard University. In the late 1970s, she volunteered teaching special needs children at the elementary school in Harvard. She later established a successful business specializing in rare and out-of-print bird books, serving a clientele that included novices and scholars alike.

Phyllis and Bill traveled widely across the globe, especially throughout Europe, including a trip to Prague in 1968, stints living in London and in Florence, and travels to India, Japan, China, Australia, and Singapore.

Along with her husband, Phyllis is survived by her son Dougald and his wife Janet Parkinson of Newport, Rhode Island; her son Richard and his wife Aileen J. Krikoryan Parkinson of New York City and their sons Maximillian and Christian; and her sister, Elizabeth Quance, of Montreal.

Arrangements will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in Phyllis’s memory may be made to the Harvard Public Library Book Fund.

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