If life were an ocean, “Pat was never the guy sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the water to calm,” Patrick “Pitter” Parkinson’s friend Sausha Chandler said. “He was a fearless guy who would jump straight into the wave and came out to tell us how it was.”
Parkinson, an alumnus known for his achievements in journalism, public relations and humanitarianism, died on Oct. 10 from a heart attack. He was 43 and living in Salt Lake City.
Former Signpost advisor Sheree Josephson remembers getting a call from Sierra Leone long after Parkinson graduated. Josephson told him to be careful amidst the gunfire, but Parkinson was busy preparing for one last interview with Liberian president Charles Taylor.
“When I met him, it was clear that he was meant to be a journalist,” Josephson said. “As they say, he had a nose for news, and he had ink running through his veins.”
While reporting for the Park Record, the Utah Press Association presented Parkinson with the Best Breaking News Story and Best News or Feature Series awards in 2003 and 2007, respectively. The Utah Developmental Disabilities Council later awarded him Media Representative of the Year in 2009.
It was commonplace for Park Record editor Nan Chalat Noaker to receive an angry call from city officials over one of Parkinson’s articles. Perhaps more common was the sound of Noaker’s voice shouting, “Parkinson, get in here!” After moseying through the office, Parkinson would deliver a sound, measured explanation for his coverage once he reached her doorway.
Parkinson left the paper to direct public relations, later moving to San Francisco in 2013 to further Post Planner ― a social-media-marketing startup created by his brother, Josh Parkinson ― helping to boost users from 30,000 to 600,000 in his time there.
Another successful campaign involved working with Mitch Weight, the founder of Sahbu, a non-governmental organization that provides scholarships for African children to study at pre-fabricated schools.
At one village in Liberia, the elders expressed their concern over alluvial diamonds present in the nearby floodplains ― the government could sell the rights to strip-mine the area to a foreign body, who would also relocate the villagers. Patrick helped Weight start Humanitarian Diamonds, an organization that sold diamonds before the ebola outbreak halted exports. The duo gave the proceeds back to the village ― as well as four others ― for development.
“I really wanted to make sure that people knew what kind of impact he had,” Weight said. “He wasn’t just a fun-loving, energetic, sometimes challenging guy — he was actually making a huge difference in the world with what he did.”
The family has started an endowment titled the Patrick R. Parkinson Memorial Scholarship for Journalism at WSU, which will benefit applicants majoring in communications. Donations can be made at www.weber.edu/give.
Patrick is survived by his parents, Scott and Pam Parkinson; his brothers, Joshua and Nicholas Parkinson; and his nieces and nephews: Leonard, Elisa, Helene and Lucia.
The family scheduled a memorial service on Oct. 15 in the Lindquist Alumni Center. Friends and family gathered at 5 p.m. and speeches began at 6:30.