Budd and Linda Parrish lived quietly on 80 acres outside of Harrah, Oklahoma. The small, country home offered the privacy they craved following careers that took them around the world.
Budd, a U.S. Navy veteran and engineer, and Linda, a math lover whose work included posts in database management and computer programming, had no history of donations to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. So when Budd followed Linda in death, foundation officials were surprised to learn of a gift to OMRF worth $1.2 million.
“Mr. Parrish made just one call to us almost a decade ago,” said OMRF Senior Director of Development Sonny Wilkinson. “He shared their plans to name the foundation as a beneficiary of their estate but left few other details. We aren’t sure why the Parrishes selected OMRF, but we’re thankful they did.”
Budd and Linda married in 1970 after meeting two years earlier while working at Tinker Air Force Base. Their careers in engineering and technology launched a crisscross tour of the U.S. and the globe, taking them from New York and Maryland to California, abroad to Japan, and eventually home to Harrah, Oklahoma, where Linda was born and raised.
During a three-year posting in Tokyo with AT&T, the Parrishes developed a love of international travel. All told, their passports tallied 32 countries over their lives. But it was Japan that captured their hearts.
“Life in Japan was a wonderful experience for both of us, and every day was an adventure,” the Parrishes wrote for the Harrah Historical Society in 1998. “Although it was nice to return to Oklahoma, there was also a feeling of sadness at leaving Japan and the people and places we had grown to love.”
In their retirement, the pair focused on becoming reacquainted with Oklahoma and small-town living. They had no children but were happy to finally have the time to invest in passions like historic preservation.
Linda developed Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2015 at age 69. Budd passed away in 2019. They designated their gift to OMRF to cancer and Alzheimer’s research.
Work at OMRF has led to an experimental drug undergoing clinical trials at the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center to treat patients with glioblastoma, a brain cancer. The drug has also shown promise in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a fast-growing pediatric brain cancer.
Alzheimer’s affects more than 6 million Americans, and one in three senior citizens dies with the disease or other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. At OMRF, scientists are studying dopamine, a chemical responsible for voluntary movement and the perception of reward in the brain, and its relationship to Alzheimer’s.
“We would have loved to meet Mr. and Mrs. Parrish to show them where their donation was going,” said OMRF’s Wilkinson. “They clearly had a passion for medical research, and their gift will help OMRF scientists continue to explore new paths for treating devastating diseases. We can’t move forward fast enough.”