Obituary: Marjorie Ann Parker

Ophthalmologist, volunteer, philanthropist, gardener, traveler, friend to many


Dr. Marjorie “Margie” Parker, who came to Claremont to work with the late Dr. John (Jack) McDermott for one year, which turned into her practicing in her much-loved Claremont community for 31 years, died at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center on February 11 in the presence of her husband, James Thurman, and close friend Janie Higginson of San Diego. She was 64.

Dr. Parker was born May 7, 1955 in San Diego, where she was raised. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego and then earned a master’s of public health degree from UCLA, and a MD from the University of California, Irvine.

In 1989 she moved to Claremont. In July 1991 she married James Thurman. She practiced ophthalmology in Claremont for 31 years with Dr. McDermott and later his son, Dr. John McDermott III, Dr. Anil M. Shivaram and Dr. Sunil M. Shivaram.

World travel was her passion from an early age. After graduating from high school she and a girlfriend drove a Volkswagen Beetle to Alaska and back from their homes in San Diego. 

During her undergraduate study she traveled Europe alone with a Eurorail Pass. She often shared with her Claremont patients the many techniques she mastered for safe travel by a young single woman: no fear but always awareness of personal responsibility and attention to detail.

She loved geography and could easily recall details of a map not seen for years, discussing the home country of an immigrant friend as though she had grown up in that county. She loved every corner of the earth and anyone born elsewhere instantly felt a connection with her knowledge of their distant homeland.

Her initials were MAP, for Marjorie Ann Parker. She liked to explain that her interests in food, customs, all things of nature, and love for people worldwide were all because she was a “MAP” of the world. Dr. Parker chose an email address of “globalnomad,” and throughout her life loved every minute of her nomadic service and travels.

She loved language, and spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese, some Arabic as spoken in Egypt, and enough Turkish to get cabs to go to the correct place at the correct price.

Dr. Parker began her lifelong devotion to international charity work after graduation from medical school, before her ophthalmology residency, by filling in for the one doctor in a Thai hospital so that he could return to the US for several months. The hospital was in a remote jungle area of Thailand on the border with Burma, near the bridge over the River Kwai.

She often shared the importance of that experience in her life, of a new doctor suddenly being the only doctor, alone in a very remote area when multiple injured would arrive from the war-torn surrounding jungle. She nearly died from malaria and worked at a hospital serving patients with leprosy.

Upon returning to the United States she completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of California, Irvine. She planned a career working among Native Americans in the desert areas of the Southwest.

She continued her devotion to international charity work throughout her life. Volunteer surgery and teaching work covered the world, including Thailand, Brazil, Cuba, Bali, India and Peru.  Dr. Parker was planning to continue her international volunteer work after retirement; Mongolia and Peru were being considered.

She maintained both professional relationships and personal friendships that were formed during her volunteer work around the world, and often hosted visiting travelers, sometimes physicians from Brazil and old friends in her Claremont home. She loved to introduce her visitors to Claremont, encouraging international understanding and friendship at every opportunity.

She had a passion for gardening, and took pride in a large potted vegetable and herb garden that was the source for the ingredients she used in preparing feasts for her family and friends. She loved preparing amazing food influenced by techniques from around the world and presented in a beautiful way.

She had a passion for writing and discussion, often sharing with others her belief that a gift exists in every difficulty, and that finding that gift, rejecting victim status, and allowing the growth of beauty, hope, kindness and understanding in all situations is the best method for living a full life. 

Margie Parker will be missed by her husband James Thurman; brothers Ron Parker (Kathleen) and Jim Parker; three nieces and one nephew; and her many friends in Claremont and the rest of the world. Her much loved Australian Cattle Dog “Didge” remains waiting by the door for her.

A public memorial service will take place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14 at Claremont United Church of Christ, 233 Harrison Ave., Claremont.



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