Richard Barron Parker

PORTLAND – Richard Barron Parker passed away peacefully at home on August 13, 2021. Diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 2018, good medical care enabled him to continue normal life until recently. A year ago he and his family sought medical assistance through Maine’s right-to-die law, which enabled him peacefully to end his own life surrounded by family. Richard Barron Parker was born Oct. 13, 1940 in Houston and raised in Baldwin, N.Y. Always known as “Dick” to family and friends, he graduated from Baldwin High School in 1958 and Haverford College in 1962. In June of that year, Dick married his high school sweetheart, Valerie Mawdsley, who unfortunately died of cancer in the summer of 1963. Dick finished his master’s degree at Brown University and entered the University of Chicago’s Ph.D. program in philosophy, studying moral injustice. He graduated in 1968. In 1967 he married Patricia Lawson, a graduate student in English at the University of Chicago. Their only child, Anne, was born in 1972. Dick entered Harvard Law School in fall, l968. While a student, he lectured in general education and taught sections of Professor Charles Fried’s course on Law and Morality. His volunteer stint at Harvard Legal Aid taught him more practical aspects of law and morality, as he defended poor women in Boston divorce court. After graduation in 1971, he became research assistant to Professor Paul Freund, where he acquired Prof. Freund’s famous messy desk habit as well as great regard for the supreme court and the field of constitutional law. Between 1971 and 1982, Dick taught at Rutgers Law School and practiced law in Boston. He then spent a year consulting in a law firm in Seoul, Korea where Pat taught as Fulbright professor, and in 1983 he began his Fulbright teaching year in Sendai, Japan at Tohoku University. There, Dick became fascinated with Japan and its culture. During his visiting professorship at Osaka University, 1985-87, he became more fully immersed in the culture, studying Japanese language and taking every opportunity to engage in Japanese life. He became a fan of Japanese food and drink, Japanese gardens and baths, and especially Chiyonofuji, star sumo wrestler. The last 18 years of his professional life were spent teaching at Hiroshima Shudo University. He never missed the cherry blossom festivities in April and the maple leaf colors of fall. His interest in Japanese arts grew to include the ancient dance-drama form, the Noh, and he often brought foreign guests to Noh performances on Miyajima Island. One of Dick’s greatest pleasures in life was Dix Island in Penobscot Bay where he and his brother David and their families shared a cabin. He loved the sea, the rocks, his 21-foot outboard, and fishing off the island pier. Dick retired from Japan in 2008 and joined Pat at their home on the Presumpscot River in Falmouth, where they lived until shortly before he died. He is survived by his wife, Pat; brother, David Parker and sister-in-law Annie Popkin; his daughter, Anne Bergman, son-in-law, David, and grandchildren, Jacob and Elisheva. Numerous cousins and nieces and nephews also mourn his passing. Dick’s website containing some of his writing can be reached at In lieu of flowers donations can be made in Dick’s name to the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust.

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