Bill Parish

William Walter Parish (December 7, 1926 ~ December 6, 2021)

William Walter Parish died peacefully a few hours before his 95th birthday. Bill was a dearly loved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend to many. He never knew a stranger; instead, he was quick to shake your hand, share a funny line, and learn all about you with his genuine interest and care for others. 

The son of the late Commander James H. Parish and Ruth Whitley Parish, Bill was born in Wendell, NC, but grew up in San Diego, where his father was stationed in the Navy. Returning to Wendell in 1940, Bill attended Christ School in Arden, NC, and graduated from Wendell High School in 1943. He attended Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) where he met the love of his life, Aileen Reel from Arapahoe, NC. Bill would describe the moment when he first saw her playing the piano in Harper Hall as the prettiest lady playing the prettiest music. They discovered they had much in common, both growing up in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, loving music (Bill played trumpet), and sharing the same favorite professor. When they met that evening, it was the start of a love story that continued over six decades. 

After serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII, Bill transferred to N.C. State University where he was a member of Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity. He graduated in 1950 and married Aileen in 1951. Bill joined his father in the family business, Wendell Furniture Company. Bill’s outgoing personality, warmth, and kindness made him a natural in the business. He worked as a manager and later president of the company for 53 years. Bill served on the board of directors for the Southern Retail Furniture Association and the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association. He was a director of Wendell Bank and director and vice-chairman of  First Union National Bank’s Wendell office. He also served on the Wendell School Advisory Council. Bill was a respected business owner and civic leader, loved by many in Wendell, around the state, and beyond. 

A devoted member of Wendell Christian Church, Bill served as a Sunday School teacher, choir member, deacon, elder, and chair of the board. He was called “Mr. Magic” by the children because of the fun magic tricks he’d share. 

Bill and Aileen enjoyed representing their church at state, national, and international assemblies. They were also loyal Barton College supporters and attended 64 Homecomings together! They enjoyed many lifelong relationships with their college friends. Bill was a dedicated Rotarian. He served in the Wendell Rotary Club for 65 years, was a Paul Harris Fellow, and lived by the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self.”

Bill’s greatest joy was his family. Through the years, he enjoyed his daughters’ and grandchildren’s school activities, sports, and music recitals. He taught his daughters to play tennis on the Parish court and continued competitive matches into his mid-70s with friends and family. His quick reflexes at the net earned him the nickname “Cobra.” For decades, Bill delighted in movie, theater, and symphony date nights with “his bride.” 

Bill loved planning trips and cruises. He and Aileen visited every continent and created cherished memories exploring the world with their daughters and their families. Bill saved foreign coins from their trips abroad to share with children at church. 

Bill is survived by “his girls” in Raleigh, daughters Tricia Parish and husband Mark Hansen, and Phyllis Parish Howard and husband, Seab Howard. He’s also survived by and was adored as “Daddy Bill” by his grandchildren, Casey Ward and wife Lauren of Weaverville, NC; Alex Ward of Vietnam; and Gabrielle Howard of Raleigh; and great-grandson, Remington Ward. In addition to his parents, Bill was preceded in death by Aileen, his beloved wife of 60 years; his sister, Whitley Daniel; and his brother, Jim Parish.

The Parish family is grateful for the Independence Village of Olde Raleigh community where Bill lived his final years and the compassionate support provided by Transitions LifeCare and his personal caregivers.

A celebration of life service will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, December 17, at Wendell Christian Church. The family will receive friends immediately following the service. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider giving in Bill’s memory to the Aileen and Bill Parish Endowed Scholarship Fund at Barton College, PO Box 5000, Wilson, NC 27893, or give online at


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