Monday, July 14, 2008

Family aims to touch souls in David Parrish's memory

Steve Parrish, of Boulder Colorado, is learning to live life as a grieving father. And he’s driven to honor his son’s memory.

Less than four months ago, University of Colorado junior David Parrish was fatally shot in Puerto Vallarta while trying to protect his mother from robbers.

“As a bereaved parent, our biggest challenge is to keep the memory alive,” said Steve Parrish, who talked publicly for the first time Friday about losing his son. “You are driven by the loss of a child and wanting to do right and something in their memory.”

Steve Parrish and his daughter have been working with Soles4Souls to create flip-flops in David’s memory. For every pair of the sandals sold on the company’s Web site at, two pairs of shoes will be sent to Africa for people in need.

“He would be smiling, absolutely,” Parrish said. “Yes, he would be glowing. I can see the look on his face.”

The idea to donate shoes to the shoeless overseas grew out of David’s enthusiasm both for unique footwear and traveling, his father said.

“He did have a passion for collecting unique shoes,” Parrish said. “I have six lifetime supplies of those things.”

When the time is right, Parrish said, he plans to donate them. In the meantime, he and his daughter are working with Soles4Souls on the flip-flop project that started after the company’s founder — touched by David’s story — contacted the family with the idea.

Lesley Parrish, David’s sister, has designed and spearheaded the development of the flip-flops, including the logo centered on the sole of the flip-flops — a setting sun over the Flatirons.
Before David died, he and his sister vowed to get matching Flatirons tattoos.

“Sadly,” Steve Parrish said, “that never happened.”

So, after David’s death, Lesley Parrish got the setting-sun tattoo and had a plaque of the image made for her brother’s headstone. Now, the picture will be touching soles worldwide.

“Lesley told me, ‘Before we started talking to (Soles4Souls), I would go to bed every night sad,’” Steve Parrish said. “‘Now I’m excited for the first time because I know what I’m doing.’”

A tag with David’s photo will be attached to each set of sandals, along with Soles4Souls’ mission statement. The shoes are being sent to Africa because his mother, Janet Graaff, is from South Africa, the family has deep roots on the continent and David studied abroad in Morocco.

Orders are being taken for the $10 shoes, and Steve Parrish said plenty of people already have claimed pairs — including friends in Europe and family members in Africa. Delivery will begin in late August or early September.

The project is a fitting memorial for David Parrish, who was mature beyond his years and, at a young age, became a sort of international good-will ambassador, his father said.

On March 26, the day David Parrish was killed, he was in Mexico with his mother. They had just bought a vacation home in the small fishing community of Sayulita, and they were in Puerto Vallarta looking for furniture when two strangers tried to rob Graaff.

The men had seen her pull money from a cash machine, watched the mother and son eat lunch and followed them to a furniture store. As Graaff walked to her car, the men approached and demanded her bag. When her son, who was still inside the store, saw the men pulling at Graaff’s bag, he ran outside and began fighting with the robbers.

One of them had a .38-caliber handgun and told the other man to shoot. He did, firing one shot into David Parrish’s stomach. They were less than 20 yards from a hospital, where David Parrish died.

Steve Parrish said he learned of the tragedy immediately.

The suspected robbers were arrested, but days later the accused killer — Alfonso Ramirez Sastre, 30 — posed as another inmate about to be released from jail and escaped. Mexican authorities launched a nationwide search, but Sastre still is missing.

“I am not going to spend $4 million to hire a posse to comb through Mexico,” Steve Parrish said. “But, yes, there is a sense of justice that I hope is achieved. But I will listen for it, not try to probe it and push it.”

Lynn Roche, a public affairs officer for the U.S. consulate, said Friday that the other suspect is still making his way through the legal system and has not been convicted in the homicide.
Steve Parrish said he doesn’t plan to visit the site of his son’s shooting at this point.

“David is dead,” he said, “and I need to say good-bye and honor his memory.”

Lesley Parrish is now in Mexico with her mother and some friends from Boulder. She might visit the place her brother was killed, her father said.

Parrish said his son’s bravery in the moment it counted has captured his admiration.

“You sit there and sometimes say, in various emergency situations, ‘How would I react?’” Steve Parrish said. “I’ve thought, ‘How would I have reacted?’ But, by golly, there is someone who knew and did react, and as a parent, I couldn’t be prouder.”

-The dailycamera

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