The Way We Were: John and Davalu “Davy” Parrish

The Way We Were: John and Davalu “Davy” Parrish
The Parrishes in their boat.

Dr. John Parrish, who is now retired after more than five decades as one of the most popular dentists in San Marco, still retains the friendly demeanor and sense of humor that always attracted patients to his chair. John’s wife, Davy, recalls a close family friend, Jeff, commenting on John’s popularity, especially with the ladies.

“What does John have that I don’t have?” he’d asked.

Davy had the answer. “John makes them laugh.”

While going to the dentist is not a favorite pastime for most, John always managed to make a visit to his office as pleasant as possible. Born in Pensacola, Florida, in 1934, John grew up fishing, duck hunting and swimming in Lake Album and Lake Ogletree, often pursuing those outdoor activities before he and his boyhood friends got to school. He has retained many of those friendships his entire life.

A football player and honor student in high school, John received dental treatment and decided on his future career as a dentist. A few of his most endearing traits, developed early on, have been his reluctance to accept praise for accomplishments and his somewhat rebellious nature. For instance, when chosen for the honor society, he refused to sit in the front row as designated, choosing to sit in the back row instead.

John Parrish attended Auburn University and then graduated from the University of Alabama School of Dentistry at Birmingham. He was elected president of the dental school by his fellow students. After graduating, he joined the Navy and was sent to the Honolulu Navy Dental Clinic in Oahu, Hawaii, where he learned to sail and developed a love for the ocean, which has stayed with him. After leaving the Navy, he brought his family to Jacksonville and set up his practice in San Marco, where he made many good friends. He spent much of his time off fishing the waters of St. Augustine in his boat, Fugahwe, named after a little-known Indian tribe.

John, in his fishing boat, Fugahwe.
John, in his fishing boat, Fugahwe.

In 1986, Dr. John Parrish, a then-divorced father of two, met a beautiful widow, Davy Mudd, the lady he calls “the love of my life.”

“I was nailed,” he said, grinning.

The couple, who were married on Dec. 5, 1987, in the chapel of Southside Methodist Church, have lived in their home in Lakewood for 36 years and nurtured a blended family of five: John’s sons, David and Robert, and Davy’s daughters, Renee and Shawna, and son, Shannon.

Davy was born in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, graduated from Oklahoma City University and earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from Nova University. One of the founders of The Bridge of Northeast Florida in 1982, her leadership as president and CEO of The Bridge over the next 32 years became legendary. During her tenure, Davy and her staff served more than 3,000 young people from the inner city annually with comprehensive education, social and health programs.

Davy retired as president/CEO of The Bridge on February 15, 2013, after accruing myriad national, state and local honors. Just a few of these include the 1997 Governor Lawton Chiles Heartland Award, 1999 Humanitarian of the Year by OneJax, 2001 Women’s Giving Alliance Founding Member, 2008 Women of Color Education Award, 2009 Florida Times-Union EVE Award, and the 2013 Jacksonville City Council Proclamation for Outstanding Service to Children. Then-mayor Alvin Brown even declared April 4, 2013, as “Davy Parrish Day.” While The Bridge merged with the Northeast Florida Boys and Girls Club in 2017, Davy has remained actively involved with The Bridge Legacy Scholarship Program

“Over the years, John and I have worked hard and played hard. We’ve enjoyed our friends and family as much as our time in the community,” said Davy.

She reminisced on the fishing trips and vacations they took with their friends H.L. and Phyllis Geiger. H.L, prior to his passing, was an orthodontist who regularly worked with John in his dental practice. The Parrishes would often join the Geigers at their place in Hope Town, Abaco, Bahamas.

John and Davy Parrish with Phyllis and H.L. Geiger in Hope Town.
John and Davy Parrish with Phyllis and H.L. Geiger in Hope Town.

“We always had plenty of Phyllis’s delicious original Peterbrooke chocolates while on the plane, and, once in the boat, the guys caught enough fish to share with all of the neighbors,” said Davy.

In 2022, as a special gift to her family, Davy worked with interior designer and graphic artist Donna McNett to put together a large collage of photographs for the foyer of their home in Lakewood.

“It was a labor of love,” said Davy. “And it includes a special graduate of The Bridge, Nemiah Rutledge, who came to us as a young boy and – full circle – is now a member of our family and one of the top fitness trainers in Jacksonville, helping John and me stay healthy and in shape.”

Today, John and Davy Parrish fondly look back at the life they’ve built together, their five children and five grandchildren, and the many people they have touched – John literally bringing smiles to the faces of his patients and Davy helping to develop productive future citizens. While both are retired, the Parrishes continue to be avidly interested and supportive of all things Jacksonville: the Jacksonville Jaguars football team, new Mayor Donna Deegan, and a number of nonprofit organizations that still seek support, guidance and advice from these two outstanding citizens of our city.

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