DELMAR---Dr. Donald F. Parsons, 89, died Thursday, November 30, 2017 after a lengthy illness. An émigré from Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, England, he is survived by his wife Dr. Julieta P. Parsons; children Clare, Raymond, Francis, and Catherine; and grandchildren Jeren, Marco, Andrey, Anna, and Paula.
Donald vividly described how the post-World War II Labor government in Britain and its social programs made degrees in chemistry, biophysics, and medicine attainable for working class students like himself.
His interest in probing the causes of cancer led him to a research program at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina in 1957, where he was also a surgical intern. Here he met his wife of 59 years, Julieta Perez Medrano, an anesthesiologist from Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Donald had a lifelong social consciousness against racism, the Vietnam war, and the threat of nuclear war. The experience of being expelled from a movie theater in 1950's "Jim Crow " North Carolina—for being a "mixed-race" couple—later made a big impact on his children, too.
His cancer research work took him and his young family to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, Canada. In 1966 he began 10 years work improving the use of electron microscopes in cancer research. Then in 1976 he supervised the creation of a state of the art high-voltage electron microscope lab at the Wadsworth Labs, a division of the New York State Department of Health in Albany.
During the 1980's and 1990's Donald was active in the movement to freeze the growth of nuclear weapon stockpiles. His interest in this cause dated back to working with Manhattan Project scientist Joseph Rotblat in London, in 1957. Rotblat, a nuclear physicist, turned against the use of this knowledge for creating weapons.
Donald retired from the Department of Health in 2010. On Tuesday December 5, at 10 a.m. a funeral mass will be held at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 35 Adams Place, Delmar. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Catholic Relief Services or Covenant House.