Obituary: John Thomas Parr, 78

November 26, 1941 – October 02, 2020

John Thomas (Tom) Parr of Reading passed away at the age of 78 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. His family was by his side. Born in Philadelphia, PA, he was the only child of the late John and Ruth (Gabriel) Parr. He graduated as co-valedictorian from Collingswood High (NJ) in 1959, where he played on the varsity tennis team.

Tom received his BS in geology from MIT in 1963 and his MS from Brown University in 1966. After graduating, he joined the team at Draper Labs that designed the optics system for the Apollo Program. He was an early pioneer in remote sensing and worked on the Landsat program. He appeared on the TV program NOVA to discuss his work, including “K2: Taller than Everest”. Following his work for NASA, he worked for TASC, Northrup Grumman, and retired from BBN in 2012.

He was an active member of the MIT Outing and sailing clubs in college and remained a lifelong outdoors enthusiast. He enjoyed rock climbing, hiking, camping, backpacking, and skiing with friends and family. He endeavored to join the 4,000 footers club with his kids.

Tom got his pilot’s license and owned a Cessna for many years. He was an avid traveler. Family summer trips included cross-country drives to camp in the Rockies or Sierras. Beyond work trips to Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, Greece, and Greenland, he and Mary took trips to Iceland, Italy, France, New Zealand, Switzerland, Bermuda, Ireland, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Tanzania, Russia, the Galapagos, China, and Croatia. He enjoyed photography and was lovingly teased for falling behind during hikes or other sightseeing trips to capture that perfect picture.

He was a devoted father who took pride in his children’s achievements and relished time spent playing with his grandchildren. He had a mischievous spirit and enjoyed playing pranks. One of his proud accomplishments was using his rock-climbing skills to mount a red wooden heart on a tower on Brown’s campus, in honor of Valentine’s Day. Sessions helping his kids with Latin homework often devolved into good-natured wagers over Latin grammar with his mother-in-law.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Dr. Mary (Morris) Parr of Reading and his four children, Jessica (DJ Cacciapuoti) Parr, of Exeter, NH, Gillian (Christopher) Hermance of Winchester, MA, Sasha (Ryan) Corken of Reading, MA, and Brendan (Kim) Parr, of El Cerrito, CA. He is also survived by 5 grandchildren: Lily Cacciapuoti, Tommy and Isla Hermance, and Théa and Aiden Corken. He was a much-beloved uncle and cousin and a friend to many. His dog, Hobie, also misses him.

His family wishes to thank his carers at Mt. Auburn Hospital and Sawtelle Family Hospice. Donations in Tom’s memory can be made to the Mission of Deeds 6 Chapin Ave Reading, MA 01867. The family also hopes that you will honor his memory as a scientist and environmentalist by voting on Nov. 3. Owing to the pandemic, services will be private. 

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