Cover photo for James Parker Rice Jr.'s Obituary
James Parker Rice Jr. Profile Photo
1925 James 2023

James Parker Rice Jr.

November 18, 1925 — February 10, 2023

James Parker Rice, Jr., 97, passed away peacefully at home in Westport, NY on February 10, 2023 with family by his side. Born in Fitchburg, MA on November 18, 1925 to James P. Rice and Marion (Stevens) Rice, Parker attended Fitchburg schools through grade 10 and Lunenburg High School thereafter, graduating in the Class of 1943. Upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy Air Corps and trained as a fighter pilot until 1945 when WWII ended. Parker then earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Maine at Oronoand worked in the U.S. Forest Service from 1949 to 1950 as a fire spotter in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest.

Returning to Fitchburg, Parker went to work at F. W. Rice Jewelers & Stationers, the family business, and in 1950 married Mona Irvine, with whom he had fallen in love years earlier when she showed up as a bright beautiful dancer at his mother’s Marion Rice Studio of the Dance. They bought their starter home in Lunenburg and in 1957 moved to a 1796 colonial in Ashburnham, MA, where they restored their dream house and raised three children. In 1970 when the family business was liquidated, Parker purchased Hyland Office Supply and merged it with F.W. Rice’s stationery component to create Hyland/Rice Office Products, Inc., known for excellent personalized customer service.

When Parker wasn't designing commercial spaces, servingcustomers with gentlemanly charm, and managing other business tasks, he was busy elsewhere. Parker lived that which he espoused to his children: “Do something productive.” He served in community leadership roles with the Fitchburg Chamber of Commerce, Fay Club, Fitchburg Gas & Electric, Unitil, United Way, Worcester North Savings Institution, Fitchburg YMCA, Fitchburg Art Museum, and the Ashburnham Community Church.

Parker loved sports and being active. Football was a favorite; in an unusual instance, he played by himself during the 1938 hurricane in the backyard of his Lunenburg, MA home: As he described it, “I’d throw the ball into the wind and watch the football being carried back through the air toward me so I’d run and catch it.” Parker played a strategic game of ambidextrous tennis and was an elegant downhill skier, smoothly carving each turn in the “Hannes Schneider” style of the 1930’s. It was he, who, as a teenager, eternally fell in love with snow and skiing and taught his mom and dad and everyone else in the family to ski, for which we are forever grateful. At Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, NH, Parker skied Hillman’s Highway and was inducted into "The Lipper Club” by his skiing buddies for traversing over the top lip of the ravine. He was a skilled ballroom dancer with a fancy-footed jitterbug and never lost his love of flying. In his Cessna Cardinal, he would fly family anywhere on a good day for lunch or to get someone home from college. Parker’s hobbies included puttering, working with wood, organizing and fixing things, but his heart lay outdoors. He hiked as long as he could, including Maine's Mount Katahdin at 72 and many Adirondack High Peaks. He was an avid fly fisherman always searching for the elusive trout stream; he camped, canoed and sailed and loved exploring the shoreline of Lake Champlain identifying everything in sight. He knew why and where historic shipwrecks lay in the lake, as he was, until the end, a voracious reader of American history.

In 1954, Parker had begun taking his family to Lake Champlain to vacation on the North Shore in Westport. Loving the area, Parker and Mona bought property with a stellar Adirondack Park mountain view in 1987, erected a tent platform, and commuted from Ashburnham to their get-away campsite for 16 years. In 2001 they built their retirement “camp” on the property and moved into “Wild Meadows” permanently in 2005. They joined the Westport Federated Church and savored their final years together enjoying everything natural, cultural, and edible in their new environs.

Parker was a teacher: He let each grandchild know that “Love is caring, commitment and trust” - his formula for a good marriage. And one couldn’t be with him long before getting tips on topics galore: “Turn with your hip on the outside of your ski.” “Get it right the first time.” “Plan ahead.” “Just keep it under 100!” His love of the outdoors and propensity for teaching served him well in his dedication to the Boy Scouts (BSA). In 1953 as scoutmaster, Parker and his troop attended the 3rd National Jamboree at Irvine Ranch, CA. Later, he became commissioner and then president of the BSA Nashua Valley Council and in 1992 received the council’s Distinguished Citizen Award.

Parker was a life member of the Edmund Rice (1638) Association and an early donator of DNA for ancestry tracing, as family was his passion. He was quite surprised to learn upon moving to Ashburnham that Rice ancestors had lived there for generations, were buried there, and had attended Cushing Academy. We are so fortunate that we were his family, whether we knew him as Dad, Bumpa, or Parker. He was courageous, focused, hard-working, filled with honesty and integrity andcared for everyone. He leaves our family enriched and will be greatly missed.

Those left behind include his sister, Carolyn Rice Brown of Millbrook, NY; three children: Robin Rice (Michael Ridgway) of North Stonington, CT; Rebecca Rice (Thomas) Flanagan of Ashburnham, MA; and Christopher Irvine Rice (Tomlin Coggeshall) of Westport, NY; four grandchildren: Erik Rice Flanagan (Molly McGill) of Auburn, ME; Ashley Flanagan (Andrew) Parker of Pownal, ME; Tiana Adriana (William) Recos of Paxton, MA; Mariel Rice Frechette of Solana Beach, CA; and eight great-grandchildren. Parker was predeceased by his wife in 2013.

A memorial service for James P. Rice, Jr. will be held at the Ashburnham Community Church on Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 3 p.m. Donations in his memory may be made to Champlain Area Trails (CATS) in Westport, NY or the Heart of NE Council-BSA, 394 Pleasantdale Rd., Rutland, MA 01543.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY 12932. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Parker Rice Jr., please visit our flower store.


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