Caroline Gibbons Balderston Parry

Parry—Caroline Gibbons Balderston Parry, 76, on February 11, 2022, surrounded by family at her home in Ottawa, Ontario. Caroline was born on June 5, 1945, to Ev and Will Balderston in West Chester, Pa. She was the third of six children in a Quaker family that were members of Goshen (Pa.) Meeting and residents of the Tanguy Homesteads intentional community.

Caroline graduated from Westtown School in West Chester in 1962. After graduating cum laude from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., in 1966, a Fulbright scholarship took her to Kerala, India, to teach at Mitraniketan, a nonprofit education project. She met David Parry while he was traveling across India in a Land Rover. The two fell in love and married six weeks later, remaining in Kerala until 1968. They traveled overland to England, settling in Hull, where Caroline worked as an elementary school teacher. Their next home was Victoria, British Columbia, where their daughter, Evalyn, was born in 1973. The family moved to Toronto in 1976, where their son, Richard Reed, was born in 1977.

Life during the 1980s included active involvement in Toronto Meeting; Camp NeeKauNis in Waubaushene, Ontario; Re-evaluation Co-counselling; La Leche League; Fiddler’s Green folk club; the dance group Green Fiddle Morris; the Mariposa Folk Festival; and Storytelling Toronto. Caroline coordinated a cooperative preschool in their family home.

In 1987, the publication of her first book, Let’s Celebrate: Canada’s Special Days, established Caroline’s career as an author and folklorist. The book won the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) Award, and became a reference text across Canada. Caroline and family moved to Ottawa in 1990. Her book Eleanora’s Diary: The Journals of a Canadian Pioneer Girl was published in 1994.

Following her husband’s unexpected death in 1995, Caroline began a new career as director of religious education for the Unitarian Universalists. Over the next 15 years, she took great satisfaction from her work in that role in Ottawa; Columbus, Ohio; and Montreal, while remaining active in the Quaker community. In 2003, she self-published The Heron Spirals, a personal account of her journey with grief and reckoning with widowhood. In 2013, she was honored to deliver the Sunderland P. Gardner Lecture at Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) entitled “The I Don’t Know Place: Holy Spirit With Me Always.”

Caroline’s ongoing involvement with planning committees at CYM, Friends General Conference, Ministry and Council at Ottawa Meeting, and cooking and directing at Camp NeeKauNis were all joyous and Spirit-led expressions of her deep grounding in Quaker community.

In June 2022, a posthumous collection of Caroline’s poetry, entitled Turbulent Times: Collected Poems, was published by a group of f/Friends from CYM. The Ottawa song circle and Britannia neighborhood potluck that began at Caroline and David’s home are going strong some 25 years later, continuing her legacy of local and arts-based community building.

Diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in June 2021, Caroline lived her last months with characteristic openness, grace, and enthusiasm for life, continuing to engage in the life of her meeting and her many communities, family, friendships, social justice concerns, as well as with music, art, poetry, and the life of the Spirit. In addition to home care from a wonderful palliative doctor, she was blessed with an incredible support network. Her family, her Quaker committee of care, and countless friends and neighbors delivered food, took her to appointments, tended her garden, held song circles at her home, and gave her a rich social and spiritual life until just days before she died.

Caroline is survived by her children, Evalyn Parry (Suzanne Robertson) and Richard Reed Parry (Laurel Sprengelmeyer); and two sisters, Laura Laky (Bill Laky) and Susan Peery.

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