With profound sadness, we declare that John Maxwell Parsons (21 January 1944 – 02 March 2023), surfed his last whirlpool into that good night, seeking Carlos Castaneda and Captain Cook to watch Venus transit the Sun at Tahiti. A Poet, tireless promoter, entertaining raconteur, loving family member, ever loyal friend, Newfoundland patriot and a latter day templar knight.
A true Renaissance man, born to John (Jack) and Gladys Parsons (nee Hardy) of Parsons Harbour, Newfoundland whom instilled a great historical reverence for the heritage of English and French Huguenot (LaFosse) Newfoundland livyer ancestors. Resemblance to grandfather “Fid” Parsons often jogged dim memories of remaining livyers when he visited the south coast as a young man with Cabot Martin. John grew up in St. John’s and often accompanied older brother Rex to Central Newfoundland as apprentice on Engineering projects, where in true form he also communed with the woods, locals and ghosts of the Beothuk. At Rex’s encouragement, he graduated with a Diploma in Engineering from MUN where he, Cabot Martin, Neil Murray and Noel Dinn forged deep bonds before continuing to Nova Scotia Technical College.
Not finding his true quest, he left Tech in February only a few months before graduation. He pursued eclectic jobs from selling encyclopedias that he voraciously read before knocking on doors, to water and sewage plants. Despite his growing success at Degrémont with 18 months of sales, a UK-based manager made comments with overtones equating that he was there to educate the unwashed and illiterate masses in the Colonies. John, like brother Rex, did not suffer fools who insulted Newfoundlanders. Choice words later, John quit and was walking the streets seeking his next challenge. He quickly landed a job on the Drill Rig SEDCO ‘I’, progressing to Barge Engineer on the ‘H’. Being responsible for safety, John successfully turned the ‘H’ from having the worst safety record in the fleet to having the best record. John later inculcated that culture of safety into the Petroleum Directorate that endures today.
When Bill Clements, SEDCO founder and WWII Veteran came to St. John’s, before becoming Governor of Texas, John’s boss’ order was “go get Bill in the Eldorado”, a Custom Cadillac he had bought from Anthony Tooton’s estate. Leaving the airport with Bill and the late “Big Ed” Weiterman riding shotgun, they made a beeline for the Crow’s Nest Officer’s Club, as Bill had heard many stories about “Newfie-John”; then onto Freddy’s, Dirty Dicks and Woodstock Colonial Inn. John was a true ‘Hail Fellow Well Met’ with all from corner boys to movers and shakers, leaving a lasting impression on anyone who had the pleasure to get to know him. When returning Bill to the airport, he thanked John and said that John had made a lasting impression on him and gave him an experience in Newfoundland that he would never forget.
Back in 1975 while drilling off Spain, a freak H2S exposure left indelible marks on John’s vision and respiratory health but not his indominable spirit. While recuperating in St. John’s, he, Neil Murray and Noel Dinn reconnected over traditional music. John had been offered a shore-based role back in Spain but before he could return to enjoy tapas with his beloved Catalans in Barcelona or commune at Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, Noel asked John to be Figgy Duff’s Manager. The late Art Stoyles corrected John in the 90’s, saying he was their promoter as managing a traditional folk band with such energetic and talented members was like herding cats. On a few occasions, with the band safely housed and no more room at the Inn, John would selflessly go without. Many have remained silent while deserved credit is due to John for his tireless promotion and management of Figgy Duff outside Newfoundland as he used up all his oilfield savings.
In 1981 a chance meeting with former workmate Doug Sellars raised high concerns about lax offshore safety. John, by formal letter, repeatedly implored the Petroleum Directorate to investigate. This dogged effort left a deep bureaucratic wound after the Ocean Ranger later sank. John stepped down as Figgy Duff’s promoter/manager when he was asked to take part in the Ocean Ranger investigation. He stayed through the inquiry into the sinking and became great friends with Justice T. Alex Hickman.
John left the Directorate as Cabot Martin left Government and together they were involved in everything from NIFA (Newfoundland Inshore Fishery Association), promoting Deer Lake Oil and Gas and mineral exploration, and the Oil Finders Club. He held court at the watering holes of The Republic and Christians. John was devastated when Cabot passed suddenly last September and his sustained grief magnified the residual health effects from H2S exposure and his health slowly declined until a brief illness struck him down last week.
John was a man of self-sacrifice and reflection. Although he worked tirelessly at whatever he did and sacrificed much, friends have heard John admit he regretted not doing more to promote Figgy Duff having left the band under the pressure of obligation to assist in the Ocean Ranger investigation and also not returning to live, even for a little while, in his beloved Barcelona.
Predeceased by his parents, brother Rex and Rex’s soulmate Genevieve, plus his closest friends; Neil Murray, Noel Dinn, Frank Hearn and Cabot Martin. John is survived and fondly remembered by his sister Joan Bowler (Paul) in Victoria, BC, nephew Robert Parsons (Gale), niece Janet Parsons Davidson (Eric), niece Laura Windrim (David), and many grand-nephews and nieces. John had deep affection and great appreciation for the remaining members of the ‘Oil Finders Club’ and his dear friends Elaine Driessen, Bren Fahey, Patrick Laracy, Desmond McGrath, Elisabeth Mouland, Patrick O’Neil, Carl Schofield and far too many to name.
John experienced the divine while trouting in Mahers and communing with dragonflies. A celebration of John’s life will be held this coming summer.
In lieu of flowers, family and friends humbly request that a donation be made in John’s name to either of the MUN scholarships for The Neil Murray Graduate Research Award in Folklore and/or The Cabot Martin Award for Research in Regional Policy & Development or a charity of one’s choice.
“What I know of the divine science and holy scripture, I learned in the woods and fields” – Bernard of Clairvaux
I had the pleasure of knowing John through my long-time friendship with Frank. Whenever I saw John, he had the biggest smile and hug for me. I haven’t seen him in a few years and am so sorry to hear of his passing. Hope he and Frank are reunited and enjoying long philosophical chats. My sincere condolences to John’s family and friends.
-I had the pleasure of knowing and working with John at the Petroleum Directorate in the early 1980s. I saw in him a very interesting and intelligent person who never let theorytake precedence over practicality and common sense while still remaining very human and grounded. He has left a positive mark for many.
John and I had coffee at Tim’s just before his passing. I am shocked to hear of his sudden departure. God speed John
John And I were offshore colleagues back in the formative years of the NL offshore oil exploration phase. We had a lot of the same like minded offshore friends with concerns over the arbitrary “getting her done” rig attitude and the lack of overall enforced safety standards. John and his colleagues became a force for change and change it did. The NL offshore owes much to John and his commitment to getting it right.
Condolences to all of John’s family and his good friends, he will be missed, Rest In Peace.
A sincere sadness is how I feel over John’s passing. A friend of exemplary character and a true gentleman. Always available with a non-judgmental ear and non-judgmental guidance. John never lost his dignity, manners, or kindness, no matter what obstacle crossed his path. I will miss you John. RIP
by Elaine Driessen
I had occasional contact with John over the years and occasionally played music with him. A fine person and one of the most interesting people I have ever known! Farewell John and condolences to all your family and friends.
I met John in the early 1980s when he joined the Petroleum Directorate at the urging of Cabot Martin. I was an economist working for the Department of Development located on the same Floor of Atlantic Place, and worked with colleagues at the Petroleum Directorate in support the Province’s negotiating team for the Atlantic Accord. We became friends and stayed in touch until I left Newfoundland in 1990. John was an interesting and well rounded man. He had a keen wit, was a discerning reader, and he delighted in good company and lively conversation. He was also devoted to the betterment of the province and the interests of its people. I offer my condolences to his extended family and friends.
John will be sorely missed by us and of course all who were privileged to know and enjoy his presence.
Paris and Janette Georghiou
John and I lost touch years ago with the passing of the Acropolis restaurant, late night lamb and Noel Dinn. I still remember his laugh, nourishing as the moussaka. RIP
It was a pleasure to work and consult with John in the early development of the oil industry in this province. He was an appreciated and valuable source of information and knowledge as we collectively strived to have the NL workforce break into and learn about this new and alien workplace. May he rest in peace.
I must confess to preparing this obituary with the thoughtful guidance and input of John’s beloved Sister Joan, his adoring niece Jay and two of his other closest friends, Pat Laracy and Carl Scofield. It was nearly impossible to condense the complex mystical essence of John Parsons into these few paragraphs, while its natural tendency was to grow to the size and scope of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” that John had read cover to cover several times.
I can best sum it up by saying that if you truly knew John, no further explanation is necessary and if you did not, even these few words do not do him justice and no full description is possible.
Anyone who truly knew John, never looked at clouds or dragon flies the same way again. John’s description of a dragon fly rivaled the late E.F. Schumacher’s description of a butterfly. John’s clouds were filled with the magic of the painted angels from the ceilings of Europe’s oldest cathedrals blowing their sacred trumpets to wake us all up to the beauty of life around us; we only die once and to those of us still alive, we live every day and should not be sleepwalking through it.
While John body may be gone the essence of his spirit remains: the magic with which John would walk into crowded rooms or meander through secluded meadows by banks of murmuring streams watching trout glide on silent fins. He was a true disciple of Bernard of Clairvaux and lived it every day he was alive as should we all.
My condolences to all who knew or were touched by John Maxwell Parsons , especially you sister Joan.
I grieve with all of you, Desmond
Oh my goodness John! I had been missing your visits and our chats down at Atlantic Place! I will have to find someone else to give my extra salt fish too. What an interesting man you were.. My condolences to all family and friends.
sorry to hear about John Brian