Funeral services will be held Saturday for the Rev. Thomas Parke, longtime leader of Bethesda Episcopal Church, who died Monday after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Parke, who was 72, served as rector at the Washington Street church for 44 years. Before that he was a curate at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady.
“He put a big emphasis on music and the liturgy,” said Gordon Boyd, a Saratoga Springs businessman and a member of the church vestry as well as the church choir. “He touched many lives.”
Award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce, a Saratoga Springs native who grew up attending Bethesda Episcopal, said in an email that “Father Parke was always there for me and for my family, in good times and bad.
“His faith and his love for his church were an inspiration. His ministry was a blessing and a gift to Bethesda and to Saratoga,” he said.
Pierce’s family connections to the church are numerous. His brother and two sisters donated installation of an organ in 2009, and Pierce played it soon after. Pierce’s late father, George Pierce, a local businessman, was a longtime member of the church vestry.
John Hendrickson, the husband of socialite Marylou Whitney, was baptized by Parke 14 years ago, just before Parke married the couple.
“He was a dear friend,” Hendrickson said during a telephone interview. Parke often conducted Sunday services at Whitney’s Cady Hill estate in Saratoga Springs for Whitney, Hendrickson and their guests.
Marylou Whitney said in a statement, “Many people say that people are replaceable but nobody will replace the love our family has for Father Parke.”
“He is one of the greatest gentlemen I have ever met,” she said. “John and I are terribly saddened by his passing. Our devastating loss is heaven’s joyful gift.”
Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said he and his family have been longtime members of Bethesda Episcopal because of Park. When Murphy’s wife, Laurie, first came to the Saratoga area from Massachusetts she met Parke and was baptized by him as an adult. The Murphys’ daughters were all baptized by Parke, as well.
“He was an extremely special man who connected with his parishioners individually and personally,” Murphy said.
Arrangements are under the direction of the William J. Burke & Sons and Bussing & Cunniff funeral homes at 628 N. Broadway. Final arrangements are not complete but the funeral home said a reception of the body will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at Bethesda Episcopal and funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church at 41 Washington St.
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