Charlie Parham

Charlie Parham

Charles Verne Parham Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA on June 30, 1945 to Charles Verne Parham and Jane Adair Parham. He had 2 siblings, Lamar and Mary Jane.

Charlie graduated Westminster schools in Atlanta in 1963. Several summers were spent at Camp Keewadin in Ontario, spending weeks portaging canoes through the northern Ontario wilderness. He would often tell of how he and his fellow campers used to hop on a swimming moose, and ride them across the lake! One summer, he worked at Disneyland, and kept the title of “Ride Operator in Fantasy Land” on his resume for life.

After the Atlanta Temple Bombing in 1958, Charlie developed a lifelong passion in support of civil rights, and met with Martin Luther King over dinner through his connections with the community.

Charlie attended Williams College in 1963, majoring in English literature, graduating with Honors in 1967. He was awarded a Rockefeller Brothers Theological Fellowship, attended Harvard Divinity School for one year, and later entered a graduate Education program at UMass. He spent his life working in Education: a summer teaching English in Hong Kong, 3 years working with rural teachers in the Peace Corps in the Philippines, and in the S. Hadley “Quest” program for gifted students.

Charlie met the love of his life in 1984 when he came to teach a word processing workshop at a school where Roxy was the English teacher. They married in 1986, and had two sons, Michael and Taylor. He taught his family how to appreciate learning, nature, and community. Charlie had an innate trust in people, and extended himself in ways that brought people together. He was an endless well of wisdom, curiosity, stories, and jokes.

In 1989, Charlie joined the Smith College Campus School as Curriculum Coordinator, where he worked to inspire both students and teachers. For the next 20 years he was involved in all aspects of the school, from assemblies to crossing guard.

Charlie played tennis on several local USTA teams, and was a member at the Amherst Golf Club, where he won several championships. He had an avid love for learning, literature, gardening, travel, cooking food, and wine. His retired years were spent auditing courses at the local colleges, and participating in the “Five College Learning in Retirement” program. He also was an active member of the Amherst Garden Club, planning their monthly outings and speakers. Charlie and Roxy were members of a book club that started in 1984, and after more than 250 books, Charlie could always recall names and plots from any of them.

Charlie passed away after a short illness on March 27. Donations in his memory will be used to purchase materials to build and donate toys to local pre-schools. Donations can be made to “Charlie’s Toys”- a division of “The Bogin Playscape Project”- c/o The Collaborative (97 Hawley St, Northampton MA 01060).

There will be a “Celebration of his Life” on June 30, 4:30 PM, at the Red Barn at Hampshire College.

Memorial register at

Further note:

Charlie died of an extremely aggressive prion-related degenerative brain disease. Diagnosed on February 25th while he and Roxy were vacationing in Florida, Charlie died just four weeks later.

To find out more about prion-related brain diseases, go to “What are human prion diseases?” on the website of the Prion Alliance, the only non-profit currently devoted to assisting research on prion-related brain diseases.  

Classmates interested in making a donation in Charlie’s name  to promote research on prion-related brain diseases should go to the Prion Alliance website and click on the “Donate” link.

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8 Responses to Charlie Parham

  1. John Way says:

    I am so sorry that we have lost Charlie Parham! I knew Charlie to have integrity, and I always liked and respected him.

    Oh, by the way at Keewaydin Camp in Northern Ontario, it IS possible to ride a moose while he is swimming in deep water. It is possible to paddle slightly faster than the moose can swim. It is best not to be on the moose when he reaches solid ground, however.

    I have done this myself, and often talked with Charlie about our shared common experience at Keewaydin. This is an accurate story.

    Well, we are all the same age. I wish his family and friends well at this time of great loss.

  2. John Hufnagel says:

    In May of 2016, Allan Stern and I went on a “one more road trip” tour of New England to inspire classmates to return for their 50th reunion the following year. We spent a wonderful evening with Charlie Parham and Roxy and one of their sons at their home in South Amherst, MA, talking about subjects from literature to gardening to moose riding and most importantly, to the joys of a rich life in our communities; he was organizing a neighborhood party the next day for his garden club, leaving his untamed lawn for another day.

    Charlie still had that southern disarming way, but with his wit and smile you couldn’t help but feel he was always thinking three steps ahead.

    I will remember him fondly and he will stay alive in me as he was that night.

  3. Harry Matthews says:

    Charlie Parham was one of the nicest people I have ever known. He was always kind, thoughtful, willing to listen, slow to make a judgement, quick to offer encouragement. I did not know him well, but every encounter I had with him was a pleasure, warm and charming and witty. In a world where so many prominent people reject the values he embraced, Charlie’s loss is especially painful.

  4. Lenny Goldberg says:

    I had the good fortune of having dinner with Charlie and Roxy this past fall at the invitation of Pete and Harriet Watson, who had the better fortune of spending several days with Charlie and Roxy here in Portland, Oregon. I remember Charlie quite well from classes and events we had together at Williams — and he looked exactly the same when we met up now! Youthful, soft spoken, a thoughtful lovely person. He and Roxy recommended a hotel in Bali that we stayed at and was wonderful, an experience I was hoping to share with him the next time we connected.

    It shows how little we can take for granted in this world and how much we must appreciate life while we have it.

    My deepest condolences to Roxy and his family, I’m so sorry for his loss.

  5. Peter Watson says:

    I was very saddened to learn of Charlie Parham’s untimely death. Charlie and Roxy spent a week with Harriet and me at our home in Portland this past fall. We hiked, shared stories, exchanged books, and enjoyed great meals, including a wonderfully memorable dinner with Katy and Lenny Goldberg.

    Charlie had been a good friend at Williams. He was consistently kind and considerate, with a soft-spoken sense of humor that just wouldn’t quit. We lost touch after graduation, but reconnected around the 50th reunion, pledging to keep our relationship more current.

    I’m certain that we’ll hear from many of our classmates attesting to Charlie’s all around good character and scholarly accomplishments. I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses him. I hope our memories of Charlie will serve as a reminder to all of us to maintain and deepen our relationships over time, when, for many reasons, that time may be all too short.

  6. Roxy Schneider says:

    Hello to all of Charlie’s Williams friends,
    I just found all of these comments and they are such a comfort to read how Charlie touched each of you.
    We will share memories of Charlie this Sunday (4:30pm) at the Red Barn at Hampshire College. You will all be there in spirit.
    Many thanks for all your good thoughts and memories,

  7. Allan Stern says:

    How to Ride a Swimming Moose

    Down several beers until you feel that swimming with a moose makes good sense.

    Spot the moose swimming in the lake.

    With a comrade in arms, also in a similar state of sobriety, launch your canoe. Paddle really fast to catch up to the moose.

    Maneuver your canoe so you are going almost the same speed as the moose; creep up slowly from the rear.

    Leap out of your canoe and jump on the back of the moose before he knows what’s going on. Ignore the cloud of black flies and mosquitoes, and fragrant odor of wet moose.

    Whisper sweet nothings in the moose’s ear to calm him down.

    There are no reins like with a horse. If you want to turn right, pull on the moose’s right ear. If you want to turn left, pull on the moose’s left ear.

    Sing your college’s fight song to keep the moose in a good mood. Golden oldies will work as well — anything Elvis, Bill Haley and the Comets, Fats Domino . . .

    If you have a waterproof phone, take a selfie with the moose. You will probably have only one chance to do this. There is no end of what you will be able to do with this photo.

    Here is the most important rule:
    As you approach the shore, jump off while you’re still in deep water. Your docile swimming moose will quickly become a pissed-off walking moose.

    Wait for your canoeing buddy to pick you up, and look for another moose to swim with.

  8. Jonathan Lovell says:

    Celebration of Life Service for Charlie Parham
    Red Barn at Hampshire College, Amherst MA
    June 30, 2019

    Remarks on our Williams Years by Jonathan Lovell

    Charlie and I were classmates during our freshman year at Williams, then roommates during our sophomore, junior and senior years. In organizing the following short vignettes, I’ve chosen to focus on those years: 2 are from our freshman year; 2 from our sophomore year; 1 from our junior year; 2 from our Hong Kong experience:1 getting to and a second arriving at United College for our Williams-in-Hong-Kong summer; and 1 final one from our senior year.

    So let’s begin:


    I ran into Charlie towards the end of the 2nd week of our fall 1963 semester. Literally ran into him. We were playing touch football in the Freshman Quad. Charlie had been given the ball and was sprinting towards the sidelines for a dash to the end zone. He was fast. Very fast.

    I figured my only hope of catching him was to estimate where he’d be in his sideline run and attempt to intercept him. I guessed right, with the result that we crashed into each other and went tumbling to the ground.

    “Ach! Painful,” Charlie said, “You wuddena caught me if I hadn’t slipped.”

    He was probably right. Our mutual friend Bob Conway recalled to me a few weeks ago that when Charlie received his running shoes a few weeks later, sent by his mom, he held them up to his lips and kissed them, saying “Ah, the glories of track!”

    “So sorry,” I said. “Are you OK? I was just trying to catch you, not tackle you. Let me help you up. Where are you from?”

    I’d lived a very parochial existence up to this point, having never traveled west of the Hudson, north of upstate New Hampshire, east of Cuttyhunk Island or south of Ashville North Carolina. I was blown away by the wide range of my classmates’ places or origin, and could tell by Charlie’s very distinctive accent that his own native soil lay considerably south of my farthest travels.

    “From Atlanta,” Charlie replied. “And you?”

    And so began a conversation that afternoon that was to range over travels, civil rights, our reflections on our mutual status as second borns, books we’d read or wanted to read, and the courses we were taking and the professors teaching them.

    While it may sound a bit hyperbolic, I had never had a conversation like this before in my life. I’d come from three years at an all-boys independent day school outside of Boston where the merest whisper about what you were studying would instantly label you as a “brown nose” whose primary goal was to “suck up” to your teachers. The idea that another male my own age would find his school reading not only interesting but worth discussing, was a revelation. As Wordsworth was later to provide words for my response, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
    But to be young was very heaven” (“The French Revolution, as It Appeared to Enthusiasts,” 1809)

    And so began a friendship that deepened and broadened over our next four years together, and which gives me special pleasure, leavened with pain, to recall to you today.


    It’s now late November of our freshman year. Charlie and I are walking to an afternoon tutorial with our French teacher Pierre (or ‘Pee-airrgh” as I referred to him in my fractured French). As we walk past Sage Hall — the south half of the Freshman Quad where my room was located, opposite Charlie’s in Williams Hall — we hear an announcement through the open window of a third-floor room. Except for music, freshmen never turned on their radios loud enough for the whole quad to hear, but we pay it scant attention, engaged as we are in a deep conversation about the recent allegation by Newsweek that “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written by a high-school student, then plagiarized by a young Bob Dylan.

    The classes we had with Pierre might today be called dual immersion instruction. The first half of class was generally devoted to us students teaching Pierre English, while the second half was the reverse. I tended to excel in the first half; Charlie in the second. Pierre tended to find this arrangement somewhat embarrassing, bur what was he to do?

    When we arrived at Pierre’s office, we were startled to find him weeping, weeping uncontrollably at his desk. I don’t believe either of us had seen a grown man cry, at least not so unabashedly, and it made us both quite uncomfortable. When Pierre finally blurted out the cause of his distress—that “our president,” beloved by the French, had just been assassinated by an unknown gunman during a Dallas Texas motorcade — we at least understood why he had given his grief such free rein, although our sense of awkwardness on his behalf was diminished only slightly. Call it the essential solipsism of the 18-year-old male. While we would both later recall, like most Americans, exactly where we were and exactly what we were doing when we heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination. I’ll wager that Newsweek’s accusation against Bob Dylan, or the news of Sam Cooke and his band being rejected by a Holiday Inn outside Shreveport Louisiana, then arrested for disturbing the peace, loomed just as large in our sense of consequential current events as the assassination of “our president.”

    Whatever the case, it turned out that this fall semester’s “dual immersion” experience with Pierre was not the last time he would make an appearance in our lives. As you will see.


    During our “winter breaks” between 1st and 2nd semester, generally occurring around the fourth week in January, it seemed that no matter where you went, you would run into other college students. For a group of boys who had been cooped up in their somewhat remote all-male campus for what seemed like forever, the prospect of running into a group of girls from a somewhat nearby all-female school was too alluring to resist. So in January of 1965, I persuaded four classmates, including Charlie, to make maximum use of this convenient truth, inviting them to go skiing in upstate New Hampshire. We would stay at a summer guest house my father had recently been gifted (purchased for a dollar to make it a legal transaction) by the owner of a turn-of-the-century hotel, for whom Dad served as lawyer.

    Because this guest house, which had served as an overflow residence for regular summer guests during the hotel’s more affluent years, had a large stone tower at its southeast corner, our family had dubbed it “The Castle.” Its purchase, or rather gift acceptance by my father, had been something of an issue in our family. Even today, I can recall our round-the-kitchen-table ‘decision’ that accepting this gift would create a burden for mom and a bottomless series of expenses/obligations for our family. Next day, Dad announced to us all that he’d accepted the gift. And perhaps it was partly to justify this purchase that Dad encouraged me to “try out” The Castle, along with my college classmates, for a winter break vacation.

    That week, although everything imaginable that could go wrong, as far as constantly failing heating and freezing water pipes were concerned, did go wrong, was spectacularly successful. Our group of five Williams “guys” did in fact not-so-accidently run into a group of eight Smithies, also staying together in Jackson NH while skiing at Wildcat Mountain (although stories vary to this day regarding who was chasing whom), and the group crystalized well enough by the end of week to give itself a nickname: “the Castle Crew.”

    I traveled to Concord Massachusetts just last weekend to visit with Ellen Emerson, the owner of that small cabin in Jackson that somehow accommodated eight Smithies, to reminisce about what I might say in this third vignette.

    “What’s your most lasting image of Charlie from that memorable winter break week?” I asked.

    “That’s easy,” Wick replied. “It’s of Charlie in that deep red parka, covered in snow from head to foot, snow even on his blond eyebrows, grinning from ear to ear!”

    I guess it should come as no surprise that my own image of Charlie was exactly the same. And for me, it served as a reminder of two of his most appealing attributes: his willingness to try anything even remotely within his range of abilities or aspirations, and his loyalty to his friends.


    For the whole of our sophomore year, Charlie and I were housed in a “non-affiliated” — read “anti-fraternity” — dorm called Prospect Hall. We shared a fourth floor/top floor room with two classmates, also sophomores, named Doug Tueting and Vance Horne. Our collective talent, unquestionably, was coming up with ever more creative ways to avoid studying. Could we figure out a way to get from our dorm to one of our classes without setting foot on the ground? We could! Could we learn to throw a wide brimmed hat like a frisbee, from the wall on one side of our room to the other, without its being “intercepted” by a colleague-in-procrastination, using only his head? Also positive.

    But the game that triumphed over all others, at least in terms of the hours it occupied, was “the plane game.” Discovering that the sloping lawn outside our rear-of-the-building windows provided a rare opportunity for competition, Vance and Charlie came up with the ingenious idea of using our two living room windows as simultaneous launching pads for paper airplanes, the contest being whose plane would stay up the longest as they glided slowly and gracefully to the ground.

    It took the following spring weather, coming in typical Williamstown fashion in late April, for us to discover how thoroughly and successfully the plane game had engaged our most creative and competitive juices. Looking out our living room windows, Charlie and I saw what appeared to be a back lawn entirely, and quite dismayingly, still covered in snow. It was only after trekking down the first floor and going out back to observe the lawn more closely that we discovered our error. It was not snow that covered that ground. It was thousands upon thousands of paper airplanes!


    At the beginning of our junior year, Charlie and I moved as roommates to Carter House, one of four residential houses that together made up the freshly completed Greylock Quad — Williams’ initial answer to the former dominance of fraternities on campus.

    In arranging for the four-person units of this new residential hall, the college followed the practice of asking prospective members to select one roommate, then assigning them to a second pair. Charlie and I were assigned two pre-med students in their senior year—Dave Goldstein and Bill Miller—and somewhat cautiously made their acquaintance. They were friendly but serious: undergraduates who would clearly not have been caught dead spending the better part of their sophomore year competitively flying paper airplanes from a dorm window.

    So Charlie and I decided it was time to get serious, time to start imitating the behaviors of the dedicated and conscientious students who were now our roommates. Or at least move a few steps in that direction.

    So Charlie signed up for “US Foreign Policy Post 1945,” taught by the feared and revered Professor Fred Greene. He attended every one of Professor Greene’s lectures during that fall semester, taking fulsome notes. The morning before the final, Charlie carefully reviewed all his notes, but there remained a stack of 7-9 quite thick textbooks that sat unopened on his desk.

    “Jesus Christ, Charlie,” I say, “what are you going to do? You know Greene gives finals that are legendary.”

    “Got it covered,” Charlie responds. “I’ll be prepared.”

    And with that, Charlie proceeded to read the fly leafs of all 7-9 books, admittedly with great concentration, and marched off to take his final.

    “How’d you do?” I ask with some apprehension, after the final grades have been posted.

    “Aced it,” Charlie responds.

    Charlie had an exceptionally fertile and retentive mind, and while it would not be good advice for anyone else to “try this at home,” Charlie could “inhale” a complex book’s subject matter using his background knowledge and a brief skimming of its contents. As a friend and roommate who lacked this ability, I must confess to finding Charlie’s rather astonishing facility in this regard both awe-inspiring and not a little exasperating


    In the second semester of our junior year, Charlie and I were selected as 2 of 6 Williams undergraduates chosen to participate during the summer of ’66 in the Williams-in-Hong-Kong program. We were to teach English to Cantonese speaking English teachers and social workers, at United College on Victoria Island, during the middle weeks of the summer. Since the program lasted only 5 weeks, we were provided with plane fare with stop-over privileges, to use as we wished, in the process of getting to and departing from this British Dependent Territory.

    Charlie and I took full advantage of this generous aspect of the program, leaving school as soon as we could and making as many stops along the way as our energy and budgets would allow. While we did not share all our “en route” stops, we did share many. Far and away the most memorable of these was our stop in Paris.

    We stayed at a hostel on the Left Bank, of course, and decided that we would behave Parisian right from the get-go. So the morning of our first day, we bought a bottle of vin rouge ordinaire and a large baguette, and headed to the Jardin de Tuileries for a mid-day picnic. Clearly someone had forgotten to tell us that those bottles of “ordinary red wine” were actually liter bottles. The result for us? Staggering back to our hostel, barely sentient, to sleep quite soundly for the most of the afternoon.

    We did manage to wake up at 4pm, however, and decided to give our immediate neighborhood a more sober exploration.

    “Do we know anyone living in Paris?” I asked Charlie, as we strolled along.

    “None that I can recall,” Charlie answered, “unless you count our Freshman Year French teacher.”

    And with that, I swear to god, we turned right, onto a completely undistinguished side street, observed someone walking towards us, and when he lifted his head, eyeing us somewhat suspiciously, there was Pierre! We were close enough so that I could see a moment of indecision in his eyes — should I continue on or should I flee? Ultimately civility prevailed, however, and Pierre not only shared his knowledge of the Left Bank with us, but invited us to a lecture the next day at the Sorbonne, where the topic was the “lectures on general linguistics” of Ferdinand de Saussure. Charlie mostly understood what the Sorbonne lecturer was saying. I was mostly clueless. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the second half of those French classes during our Freshman Year?


    All six of us arrived in Hong Kong late on the Saturday night before our Monday start of classes. “At least we’d have one good night’s sleep before we began,” we all thought. But then, promptly at 6 am, we were awoken by the sound of jack-hammers, and we learned to our dismay that the Chinese, or at least those building the new multi-story dorm right outside our windows, observe no sabbath, no “day of rest.”

    So the six of us staggered down to the cafeteria, assured by our hosts that since we were ‘English,’ they knew just what to prepare for us. Sure enough, they had toasted our slices of bread, then placed them in a “cooling rack” until they were brought down to “proper” room temperature. Very British. And our main meal? Oatmeal, of course, and right in the center of each of our bowls they had carefully cracked and placed a very large, very raw egg.

    While I’d be glad to be proven wrong, I do believe that it was at this very moment when Charlie decided that when he grew up, he would absolutely devote his time to cultivating something of a specialty in the culinary arts. And so he did.

    But while I would like to go on about the rest of our summer in Hong Kong, that would prevent me from giving my final vignette the attention it deserves.


    But first, a short aside: I’m not sure if Charlie and Roxy saw the film that deserved, but didn’t receive, this year’s Academy Award for best picture. I’m thinking, of course, of Bohemian Rhapsody.

    Pretty much anyone who’s seen this film will remember the scene where Freddy Mercury, somewhat exasperated with his fellow band members, comes into the room as they are plotting a new approach to “We Will Rock You.”

    “Why not make this a call and response,” argues one, “directly involving the audience?”

    For those fortunate enough to have viewed Queen’s performance of this song, in the film or on YouTube, at the July 1985 Live Aid concert, the rest is history.

    So I’m going to ask us all take a page from Queen’s book, in a manner I’ll describe below. It’s something, I can assure you, that will bring a smile to Charlie’s face and a chuckle to his lips, wherever he may be.

    Here’s the setting: Charlie and I are walking to our first Chapel Board meeting as the newly elected chair and co-chair of this Protestant Organization, known familiarly on campus as the “God Squad.”

    “We need something to liven up our meetings,” Charlie says. “We need a ‘God Squad’ cheer. I know one from my days at Westminster. It’s easy to learn. I’ll teach it to you as we walk along.”

    So now I’ll do the same for you, my memory for Charlie’s cheer still pretty much intact after the passage of just over fifty-two years.

    Here’s the process we’ll follow:

    First, I’ll give a solo performance of this cheer, doing my best to imitate Charlie, as a 21-year-old, imitating a Westminster Schools cheerleader.

    Second, we’ll do it as a group in “call-and-response” fashion, with me initially speaking each line in turn, then you repeating it as a group.

    Third, we’ll do it once more, but this time loud enough so that we can be reasonably sure Charlie will hear us.


    “Bobo ski wa tin aught”
    “I been eatin’ geowsky”
    “Skiddle de bee”
    “Skiddle de bo”
    “Come on, God Squad”
    “Let’s go!”

    [Final note: at the end of the second time through this cheer, when the volume of the 150 or so people in the room did indeed seem loud enough to for Charlie to hear, there appeared, through the barn window right behind me, a bright and luminous rainbow. I kid you not. This was the first of two ‘rainbow appearances.’ The second came towards the end of the ceremony in Hampshire College’s Red Barn, when Charlie’s younger son Taylor had just finished playing and singing an immensely moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’]

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