Richard Parsons, Champion of Children’s Book Network and friend, died last week after a courageous struggle with cancer. CBN owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his enormous support and encouragement since our beginning. We will miss him.
Many, many people all over South Africa and beyond are pausing to reflect, with sadness, on how much they are going to miss Richard Parsons. He was larger than life – and yet at the same time, a quiet source of advice and mentorship based on an outstanding career in business and philanthropy. ‘I don’t want to suggest what you should do,’ he would say, ‘But …’ And then would follow a measured and considered opinion, backed up by clearly dictated phone numbers and email addresses that were always effective, always to the point.
He was present at the first formal meeting we had as a fledgling organization, with people concerned with and for the children of Red Hill informal settlement near Simon’s Town. One minute, we didn’t know him. The next minute he became our guide and friend – as he was to a hugely significant number of other organizations that depended on him. Just how many was only made clear when Rotary Cape of Good Hope, of which he was a past president and stalwart member, hosted a memorial for him on Tuesday 9th September. So very many people rose to their feet to say how thankful they are to have known him – and how much they respect and love him.
Often, his concerns were to do with children and literacy, children and books, children having an opportunity to be happy; children having the chance to be safe. Some of those whose lives he touched do not know his name, but his efforts for them were untiring and unstinting. He made a difference.
Richard was a very – very – special person. He was a board member of CBN and our principal business and governance advisor. Only in retrospect is it possible to realize just how quietly and unobtrusively he steered our ship, always giving us the opportunity to make the mistakes a new organization has to make, always listening acutely, always offering sound advice, always with the disclaimer that we didn’t have to listen to it.
We did. We do. We shall miss him always. Thank you Richard. Thank you.
Image courtesy of Rotary Cape of Good Hope, taken on the evening Ricard was awarded one of Rotary’s highest honours – the Paul Harris Fellowship.