Parvin Baharloo, Board Member and Human Extraordinaire

DSCF5814Our wonderful Board Member, volunteer, and extraordinary woman died on Saturday June 26th, 2016 from brain cancer. She will be so missed. She was a wonderful member of our Keepers Team over the past few years; volunteering on work parties (she is shown above on the right), docent camp outs and on our KOPL Board. Her husband, Jack Pedigo, who is also a Board member, has written a biography of the life of our fascinating Parvin. Here it is for all to read:

Who was this person, Parvin? As her life’s partner and confidant for over 16 years perhaps I can shed some light. We need to remember that Parvin was totally open with her ideas and actually relished confrontation. We two, amazingly, shared many experiences and ideas and often fed off of one another in a way I doubt many couples do.
Firstly, she was born in Abadan, Iran which was once the site of the world’s largest oil refinery. Her family, including four brothers and herself, were lower middle class and her mother, although being illiterate, fostered education and critical thinking. The family was Moslem but not strong in their faith and her mother always supported Parvin’s constant questioning especially of religion. She told countless stories of being sent home from school with notes from teachers complaining of Parvin’s lack of “respect”. In one case a teacher showed up at their door with his complaints with Parvin cowering behind it. The mother said she would take care of it and after the teacher left the mother told Parvin to go out and play. Parvin’s grandmother was devout & always preached to the kids. Her mother constantly intervened, behind the scenes. At one instance when Parvin was visiting some friends who were Sunnis, her grandmother told her be sure not to eat their bread. On the way out the door her mother told her they get their bread from the same bakery as we do. From the very beginning Parvin thought religion was nonsense and became a life-long atheist. She quickly realized that life was here and now and there was no afterlife. She had a wonderful childhood and her brothers treated her with awe. To them she was a Persian Princess. In summers the family would escape the heat and retreat to an extended family home in the mountains. There life was primitive with no running water or electricity and she loved it. Again, story after story about life with the primitive relatives in the mountains carrying buckets of water on their heads and playing in the woods. It was one big, long campout.
When she was 17 she became engaged to an older man. She quickly realized this was a mistake and tried to get out of it. Unfortunately, the culture was too strong and to do so would bring shame to the family so she was forced to marry. In the end this proved beneficial as were she to stay in Iran she later realized that with her mouth she would have ended up in jail or dead. Two children Melody and Sammy were soon born. The family were able to get student visas to attend school in the U.S. and they moved to Texas. There is a large contingency of Iranians in Dallas. When she arrived in the U.S. she spoke not a word of English but after 5 years she received a university degree in early childhood education and had a third son, Scott. The marriage was very difficult and lasted 25 years. When the last child was almost grown she separated and later divorced her husband, Nick. In 1979 the revolution hit Iran and the family sought citizenship in the U.S. Parvin did most of the work and it was arduous and expensive. At one point the paperwork was misplaced and they had to start over again. Finally, one by one the family got their citizenship. She went through all this because she realized the importance of doing some things the right and legal way.
Parvin worked her way up the education ladder and by 1999 she was the director of a private school. Her one basic philosophy in education is discipline first then love mixed with a strong sense of fairness. Her youngest son received his Eagle award due to a lot of coaxing from his mother. He later told her he was gay which didn’t bother her at all and, in fact, she was proud of him when he returned his Eagle award back to the BS. He and his partner now work in the computer field and has traveled the world for his job. Her other son received a full scholarship for undergraduate school and is now a Pulmonologist in VA. His wife is also a doctor and they have 3 kids. Her daughter received her Masters from Baylor in programing and is a manager for KPMG in Dallas. My brother-in-law, also Iranian and also from Abadan had his child in Parvin’s school and he and Parvin became good friends. He called me and told me to call this woman. We spent two months on the phone before meeting. When we did it was not love at first site but rather started as a relationship based on commonalities. She loved Seattle from the first visit and in 2000 we were married in a small town in Texas. Coming to Seattle empowered her and she quickly obtained her Wash. teaching certificate and ended up working for several Seattle elementary schools the last one being Beacon Hill International School. Because of her strong sense of activism she always ended up on several school committees and in 2006 received her Master’s degree in leadership (principal) from the UW. She stayed active with Beacon Hill School and often subbed there. One principal begged her to stay a school year. He was in awe of her skills and even offered to find her a place to stay. She turned him down. The following year this principal was awarded principal of the year for the state of Washington!
One example of her total lack of shyness (she often said she didn’t know what the word meant) and fun loving character: We recently received a card from a man who said he still remembered the ping-pong event. In 2006 Parvin was enrolled in the master’s leadership program with the Univ. of Wa. The first week was held in the Pack Forest as a way of getting to know everyone. After dinner, several started playing ping-pong Parvin being one. She quickly sized up her opponent and at one point his ball hit her in the eye. She pretended it didn’t bother her. The next morning she put some dark rouge around the eye and showed up for the day’s session. Everyone saw her and the man who hit her was nervous. Each was asked to give their opinion of the group. Parvin got up on a table and went on and on how she had been injured. She saw the man bow his head and then she wiped the rouge away and said gotcha. There was a moment of silence then laughter and from then on people knew who they were dealing with. Obviously the poor victim has still not forgotten the incident ten years later.
After coming to Seattle she joined the Mountaineers club. In 2001 we started working a vacation week on a rails to trails project at Stevens Pass called the Iron Goat Trail. In 2002 PBS made a documentary film of the project and, not being camera shy, Parvin relished following the director, a John Degraff, to get herself in the film and she is shown in several scenes. We worked the trail for 7 years and did a stint in 2014 and had planned another work party this year. She is shown on a large photograph located at the Skykomish trailhead. When doing trail work Parvin morphed into a different person; trick playing, rule breaking and fun loving became her persona. She was always breaking rules and when caught managed to talk her way out. One example was the wearing of the mandatory hard hat. Workers had yellow hats and she was constantly removing hers. One year the ranger put her in charge of a group and gave her a white leadership hat. This was somewhat successful but in the end the rangers stopped reminding her. Being a railroad bed with a slight grade the trail was ADA compliant. This meant a five foot trail width. Parvin is 5’0” tall and often she would lay across the trail to get the proper width. Eventually, someone took a stick and cut it at Parvin’s height and it became the Parvin stick. The trail was worked with members from American Hiking Society, who still come to Lopez each year to work various trails. We have met and befriended people from all over the country and even different parts of the world. A plethora of stories came from our times on the Iron Goat. Also in 2002 we met Linda Hudson and they became close friends Linda was and only child and Parvin only had brothers so the two of them adopted each other as sisters. In 2005 the Hudsons moved to Lopez and we started to visit them on the island. Parvin was attracted to the sense of community and in 2008 we bought property and moved here in 2011.
Parvin became involved with the Lopez community before even moving here. She applied for and was offered the principal job at the local school. She eventually declined because she realized it was too political; she said she wanted to play games with kids not adults. She opened a food stand at the farmers market selling Falafel, rice cookies, tabbouleh salad and baklava. She catered several occasions and even created a web-site, She made meals for people who were ailing. She used her culinary skills to earn money for various fundraisers. DVSAS became one of her projects and this was the first board she has ever joined. Soon came the Prevention Coalition, board of KOPL (Patos Light) in which she took over the role of docent trainer this year. One early organization near to her heart is SERVAS Int’l. This is an organization dedicated to the promotion of peace through cultural exchange. We are hosts but have been travelers and gone to several European countries. Parvin quickly became the area (WA) coordinator and this year took on the role as regional coordinator. US SERVAS is based in Arcata CA. Several years ago she coordinated an Int’l conference at Ft. Worden and later organized a Canadian/US annual potluck in Bellingham. As the only hosts in the San Juans we have hosted visitors from all over the world and the U.S.
Another of her favorite things was going to the Opera. After the first one she couldn’t get enough. She would go, usually with a friend, and get tickets for the standing room. She would scan the seating and after the break find a seat. Her friend would feel nervous but she said just let me do the talking. She always got good seats and no one ever questioned her.
One aspect of Khanoomeh  Baharloo that some may know is that she is controversial and outspoken. Her size, body language and tact lets her say and do things that would cause trouble for most others. Emotion almost always takes a backseat to reason when dealing with an issue. Her awareness, education and experiences have given her an insight most of us could only imagine. Some 30 years ago she became vegetarian and never looked back. After coming to “liberal” Seattle she learned other aspects of the lifestyle and became a staunch advocate. She helped many others learn that a lack of meat did not mean a lack of taste or enjoyment of food. Another area, that most have missed, is her conviction of our place in the natural world. Not just working with nature but advocating for its importance and demonstrating our place within it. In her first grade classroom she labeled all the wastebaskets as landfill. At the start of the school year she would take the boys and girls into the bathroom and show them how to practice conservation of water and paper towels. She made sure to place fresh flowers on each table in the classroom. A number of years ago she came up with a question for her 2nd graders: “Which is more important, dirt or people?” From this simple questions we have extended the idea to areas as government “which is more important people or the system they live under (for democratic societies)? Not having a religion she was unable to understand its reach. However, lately she became aware of and involved with such groups as the Humanists and Brights (she helped translate a piece into Farsi for this int’l, online group). This has helped her better understand the reach of religion into society and become more of an advocate for the freedom for all to privately believe in what they wanted without having other beliefs forced on them. Even though she often substituted for the local school early this year she sent in her notice she would no longer do so. At heart of her decision was the emphasis on children being made to recite the pledge of allegiance. It has been decided by the Supreme Court that the inclusion of “under God” has made the pledge religious in nature and that no person could be forced to recite it. She also saw “justice for all” as being false.
In the end Parvin was an active board member of DVSAS and Prevention Coalition and took charge of this year’s Trashion-Fashion show. She was on the board of Keepers of Patos Light and took on the task of docent coordinator. For the past 7 years she was the area coordinator for a peace through travel organization SERVAS Int’l. and this year agreed to be the regional
coordinator. As hosts we received many travelers from around the world. They felt they were getting two cultures, Persia and the U.S. in one. Parvin’s hospitality became known and we received travelers for a second time. She cooked for many people and maintained a web-site She was also in the mentor program and spent many hours working in our local labyrinth. The island will miss her energy, charm and talent.
Jack Pedigo

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Parvin Baharloo, Board Member and Human Extraordinaire — 5 Comments

  1. Please tell your lovely, dear Parvin that my admiration and affection for her continues to grow. She has been an amazing presence in the classroom — oh, so many children and their parents, entire families, have benefitted from her compassionate and straightforward approach to educating and raising children. (I remember frequently walking into her class to find children sprawled on the floor, breathing deeply to calm and center themselves before trooping off to complete their writing assignment. I also recall sitting in on meetings with parents in which Parvin carefully and clearly showed parents different ways that they could support their child’s success in school, even if they didn’t speak English or were not from this country.) She has been a strong and stable voice of reason within an educational community — speaking forthrightly on difficult or challenging subjects, in ways that did not alienate or distance folks with whom she disagreed. I watched her listen to her colleagues and empathize with them, even when she didn’t agree with their views. And, of course, she fed us all!! Her food and her flowers brought joy and beauty into the school, into our world. That’s Parvin. Her choices around her own death are equally as positive, joyous and courageous. I am in awe of her and so grateful to have had her in my life.

    With love and gratitude,

    Susie Murphy
    Former Principal
    Beacon Hill Int’l school

  2. Parvin’s story is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing her life with us Jack. My admiration for her continues to grow and that is the way that she continues to enrich us.

  3. I am so glad someone took the time to share their appreciation of Parvin so that we could also be informed about her talents and abilities. I know Parvin and Jack through US Servas where they served at co-presidents of the WA chapter of US Servas.

  4. Jack – Thank you for sharing this beautiful memoir. I was on Lopez this weekend and only found out about Parvin’s passing on Saturday when I happened to ask someone at the Farmer’s Market – “where is Parvin?”, and she told me that she had gone. I stopped by your house with my wife on our bicycles, but you were not home. We were all lucky to share time with Parvin. Much love and peace, Jordan and Upel from Seattle

  5. I am awe struck to hear that Parvin had died. I am crying so hard that I can hardly see to type. I was her neighbor and friend in West Seattle…when Jack and Parvin lived together, before moving to the Island. She was a powerful force in my life as well…helping me to stay on the right track with my sobriety and do the right thing for myself…and love myself…..she expressed real love for me in doing this for me. She even reached out to manage my funds for me….and came to my rescue when I fell very ill to a virus, and had to be ambulanced to the ER.Her and Jack BOTH were extremely kind and generous people full of love and warmth…..She will truly be missed, and I am just sorry I did not stay in better touch with the two of them.
    Also…She was an amazing cook!…and taught me how to “spice up” my cooking using some Eastern spices! To this day, I use her techniques and insight when making spicy foods with these flavorings! She was a light in my life…and Jack, to you…..I am so sorry for your loss, my friend….I know you loved her! I am praying for your healing and grace in moving forward in your life here on earth! If jack would like to reach me I would love to get back in contact with him and learn of all the amazing things he is doing on the Island!!! Love to you Jack, YOur families and Parvin’s Family as well!!!…and to you….in beloved memories and celebration of your life and contribiutions on earth, forever….YOU PARVIN! Bradley Reed

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