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Local banker, leader leaves lasting impression

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

As she walked quietly through her home, she felt the crisp fall air waft over her as some presence aggravating the solemn mood.

"I have somebody coming over to start our furnace," said the saddened widow of well-known banker, Sam Parrish. "My husband did all that kind of stuff."

He died suddenly on Oct. 7 of causes not immediately known.

But today, Priscilla Parrish is making the best of her husband's memory.

She filed through old photographs in search of his image and found a photo of their son, David, who died in 2001.

"He was an angel," Parrish said, before finding a photograph of her husband in a drawer of family photos.

"We had plans to go to Europe," she said.

The couple met at Statesboro High School in Statesboro and married as teenagers. They had been married for 48 years. "We've been married all our lives," Parrish said. "People need to hold their families together and stay together."

She and her husband raised their three children in Jonesboro.

"[Karen] has her father's brain and he was a very smart man," Parrish said.

His daughter, Karen Cooper, a banker herself, says her father will be remembered for his Eagle statuettes still scattered throughout their Jonesboro home.

Cooper says the Eagle symbolized patriotism for her father, who had served in the army as a young man.

He had a deep affinity for the Boy Scouts of America, too, she said, partly attributed to the loss of his own father when he was six years old. "He had a very strong commitment to his family and the responsibilities that came with them ... He was also fascinated with the water," Cooper said of her father, who did a fair share of deep-sea fishing and boating in his lifetime.

Sam Parrish died at age 67. He served multiple terms as chair of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce and the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.

Dottie Wise, past chair of the Henry Chamber, said she knew Sam Parrish as a friend of 24 years.

"Sam was a very giving person," Wise said. "He gave a lot to his community through his expertise and influence."

He started in banking as a Bank of Jonesboro teller, while attending Georgia State University in 1961. He served as president of First State Bank and SunTrust Bank of Henry County before he retired in 1995.

Then, in 1997, he formed the Eagle National Bank in Stockbridge, named after his 38-foot yacht, likewise inspired by the Eagle. He served as president and chairman of the bank's executive board.

"He opened up my first savings account," said family friend and former customer, Bill Hodgins.

"He's a great guy, and I considered him a friend," Hodgins said. "I remember him being a very loyal friend. He's a very smart guy ... there seemed to be a lot of wisdom in a lot of the decisions he made."

Parrish also chaired the Board of Governors for Eagle's Landing Country Club and was a patron to the YMCA of Clayton County and the American Heart Association.

"Sam was pretty much an open book," his widow said. "He was tenacious."

He is survived by his wife, Priscilla, and daughter, Cooper; son Kelly Parrish; grandchildren, Elizabeth, James, and Lauren Cooper; step-grandchild, Malley Pendergrass; sister Faye Chester; brothers Fred, Robert, Ferrell, and James Parrish; and several nieces and nephews.