Mystery Deciphered

Memorial Plaque for Helen Rand Parish, southwest extension of park, photographed in 2014

On December 29 2014, I published a post here about the memorial plaque for Helen Rand Parish mounted to a stone in the southwest extension of the park. I pointed to the cryptic image in the center of the plaque and asked, “Can anyone help decipher it?” It took almost six years, but I now have an answer. Jo Sanders, who with Cecile Earl was a close neighbor and friend of Helen for years, writes that the puzzling image is “the Seed Syllable Tam, the female Buddha Tara, which gives blessings for a long life, in this or the next.”

Helen Rand Parish in her 90s

Cecile writes separately that Parish together with a UC Berkeley postdoc named Jim (last name forgotten) worked for hundreds of hours doing research to block the efforts of the Santa Fe land company and developers to turn the marina into a shopping center. They also fought to get the Normandy Village (aka Thornberg Village) landmarked. They also joined forces to organize a symposium on Bartolome de las Casas, the 16th century Spanish bishop who criticized his compatriots’ treatment of the indigenous people of South America and fought for the abolition of slavery. Parish was a leading scholar of Las Casas and published extensively about him. She launched an effort to have him canonized, knowing that this might take centuries.

Cecile writes also that “We chose the rock to anchor her—with that plaque dedicated to her indomitable spirit—to that spot, one of her favorites on our many walks at Cesar Chavez Park…. Every time we went to the park, she insisted on stopping at that spot to admire the view which reminded her of visits to her adored Lake Lugano in Italy when she was in Europe researching documents pertaining to de las Casas…. We had a dedication with Loni Hancock and relatives, scholars and friends at that rock about a year after mounting the plaque.”

Parish is the subject of a Wikipedia article written in 2018.

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