Berry Funeral Home


Tom Marion Parkhill Jr.

June 20, 1925October 11, 2020

Thomas Marion Parkhill, Jr., father of Tom Parkhill, III, and father to Mick Fowler, went Home Sunday, October 11, to thank his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face to face for the good life, good gifts, He’d given him for 95 years and to rejoin his greatly liked wife of 63 years, Grace Free Parkhill, dear daughter, Elizabeth Parkhill Leitson, big sister, MaryLou Parkhill, English teacher mother, Marion Doran Parkhill, Presbyterian preacher - teacher grandfather, Doran who read the Bible in Greek to him every day until he was 5, and bricklaying cardsharp father, Thomas Marion Parkhill, Sr., who taught Dad the family trade in the brickyard run by four generations of Parkhills in Paris, TN, as seen in the TN Archive photos of west TN life. Dad left late this afternoon in the same quiet, unassuming way that he lived - a devout VFL rousing slightly on Saturday when his Vols scored their second touchdown against UGA. Grace had written an obituary in 2006 noting his efforts with fatherless boys, leadership of CAC and Church St. United Methodist Sunday school classes. Dad would rather you heard about the wonderful people he was so lucky (blessed) to have had in his life. Dad’s Uncle Bernie, a WWI vet who’d been gassed, was advised to work outdoors so Dad became his farmhand able to run the farm at age 12 when Uncle Bernie had to go to the VA hospital. Dad sold peanuts and watermelons to the clay miners to help get his family through the Great Depression. He left Whitlock outside of Paris, TN, to attend the University of Tennessee the fall of 1943. Dad worked a few years at Oak Ridge because his poor vision kept him out of WWII. When he returned to UT, he lived in one of the greenhouses on the Ag campus while laying brick 3 days a week letting his boss think he was laying out drunk since his boss didn’t like no college boys. Dad graduated March 19, 1949 with a degree in Animal Husbandry, from the finest university in the country, UTK. Grandma Doran gifted him with a class ring that he proudly wore until a few weeks ago. Dad was a founding member of UT’s Block and Bridle. The best time of his life he recently said were his UT years when he could follow the Vols to every game with his best friend Butcher. Dad unexpectedly met aunt Grace in 1951 when he gave a ride to a friend who was dating her niece Irma Kate in South Knoxville. Dad had no intention of ever marrying until on the second date, Grace being a Sevier county mountain girl, grabbed a stick and boldly whacked the bear on the nose who’d come to investigate the grilling steak. At 90, Dad still marveled at what Grace saw in him to make her marry him - even after he mowed down her adored iris as weeds! Dad’s first great gift was being content with his lot in life as well as recognizing some little thing as good each day from a cup of coffee or tea to the sunset over the ridges from our front porch that he’d built with our brick house single-handedly in 1957 after work each day. Dad was convinced he had had the best parents, the best extended family like his Uncle Sonny and cousin Roland, the best upbringing as a farm boy in west TN, had gone to the best university, had the best wife who had raised the best kids and had the best job laying brick all over Knoxville. Dad’s other great gift was loving to work hard and long all his life. Dad retired from brick-laying in 1988 to focus on hybridizing tall-bearded iris. Dad worked sunrise to sunset in his yard of 200-500 iris varieties with a nap after lunch with his Cat-Dog Marlowe as his only concession to age. In 2014, his beloved UTK honored his having introduced19 varieties to the American Iris Society and winning the 2012 International Wister Medal at 88 for the best tall-bearded iris in the world, Chief John Jolly, named for his favorite Cherokee leader. We are grateful for the support and prayers of Dad’s cheering section through his four falls from October 2016 to today: Tom Ballard of Heaven-scent Gardens and Margeaux Emery of UTK’s Agriculture Publishing Dept., Kim from the East TN Iris Society, the UTK Home Health crew of Sandy, Greg and Sean, our Island Home Ave neighbors, Tom’s TN Stage Company crew, and Dad’s angels in his last week - Gary & Madeison Howard and the UT Dean’s Office staff confirming “Volunteer is a Verb” and UT Hospice Christina, April, Angel and Marijo. Having prayed with Dad and commended him to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ each night as we read and prayed through Daily Light, we will celebrate his life in the spring and consign his and Grace’s ashes when his iris bloom. God bless you all as you have Dad and us. Enjoy his iris in UT Gardens each spring and GO VOLS! The family invites friends to share fond memories and sign the online guestbook at


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Tom Marion Parkhill Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Tom Ballard

October 19, 2020

I will cherish Tom's friendship and always be greatful for him sharing his knowledge and love for his flowers. God Bless!
Tom & Sue Ballard

Monte and Whitney Stanley

October 19, 2020

Whitney and I would like to express our condolences to you for your loss. Your Dad was an icon in the world of horticulture as well as being a great witness for Christ.

Thoughts and prayers - Monte Stanley

Mark Leitson

October 18, 2020

My condolences to the family. Tom was a remarkable person, as was Grace, and I remember them both fondly.

Steve Hillenbrand

October 17, 2020

Tom and Grace always stood for was right. Regardless of what others thought.

Laura Still

October 15, 2020

I met both of your parents at Church Street UMC before I knew anything about Tennessee Stage Company. Both of them were always so kind, welcoming, and full of natural grace. True saints of the church that I admired and tried to emulate. So sorry for the loss, but I feel blessed to have known both of them, and I know they are reunited now.

Marilyn Vernon

October 13, 2020

I met Tom through the Iris Society. He was so generous with his irises. He gave away hundreds and hundreds of them. As a result, l just walk out in my backyard and see many of the varieties that Tom hybridized. He will be missed.

Marilyn Vernon

Jackie Palmer

October 13, 2020

"What a Wonderful Life." Randy and I always enjoyed seeing and talking to Mr. Parkhill at the TSC plays. He always had a smile and was grateful to be there. It was touching to see how close your family is. We are thinking of you and hope your warm memories will help you through this time.

Linda Mann

October 13, 2020

I have so many wonderful memories of Tom and Grace, I don't know where to begin. Tom had a huge heart and his love for Grace and his irises was a joy to be around. I will never forget hearing their tales of the various bear encounters and sharing with Tom our successes and failures in breeding irises. He was always insisting I accept irises from him, saying 'you need this one'.

Ginger Sanders

October 13, 2020

You all are in our thoughts and prayers. Love Always
Ginger Sanders


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