Your Neighbor: Meet Pam Parham

Published 12:05 am Thursday, February 2, 2023

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Pam Parham was born in Greensboro before spending most of her childhood in Wilmington. “My grandparents had a 40-acre farm that our family enjoyed,” Parham said. As the middle child of five, Parham also had lots of cousins and extended family members to keep her occupied. “When we weren’t in school, we would all get together and help in the fields with tending to all sorts of fruits and vegetables. We had such a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for our meals,” Parham said.
Like many coastal families, Parham enjoyed fishing. “We had a small boat that we would take out. Sometimes if the weather was ideal, even if we had school, I’d go with my dad out on the boat to fish,” Parham said. “We enjoyed working hard for our food. I had an appreciation for my grandmother’s cooking too. We lived with her after my grandfather passed away.”

If not spending time as a family, the cousins and neighborhood friends would be out in the church yard playing baseball. “We’d play all sorts of different games. We didn’t have official teams, if you wanted to play that day you just showed up,” Parham said. “Everyone came from a farming community, and we also shared what we grew or caught. It was a wonderful sense of community.”

Parham also developed a love of art from an early age. “Anytime I could get my hands on a crayon and draw something, I would. Having lots of animals on our family’s farm, I of course loved drawing animals and landscapes,” Parham said. “My uncle, who was a florist, would wear suits every day to work. When he picked up his suits from the cleaners, he’d save the cardboard for me to use for my artwork.
“Another treat was being able to go downtown to the art gallery. As early as the third grade, I would take the city bus downtown.”

With an interest in art, Parham was strongly considering universities that would help her hone her talents. Graduating with honors, Parham had lots of choices. “We had a large family, so I wanted to find an affordable option for schooling. All of the art schools were not affordable, so I reconsidered my options at that time. I decided on Montreat College to earn my two-year associate’s degree,” Parham said. “Afterwards I attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) for nursing. Art school was still very expensive and didn’t offer much for scholarships. My stepmother had suggested trying nursing school, and when I got in, I decided to give it a shot. I had always enjoyed science and was a member of the National Academy of Science.”

Parham excelled in her classes at UNCW as she worked towards her degree in nursing. “I knew that I wanted to work in the operating room once I graduated. What appealed to me about the operating room was that when you completed the patient’s case, you knew you had done a good job,” Parham said. “You had to have at least a year of floor experience before you could work in the operating room. I began my career in the orthopedic floor at New Hanover Memorial. However, if you trained with them you had to sign a five-year contract. Being as young as I was, that seemed like an eternity, so I decided to look elsewhere. I had several friends in Winston-Salem that had told me about the Bowman Gray School of Medicine’s operating room six-month training program. I wouldn’t have to sign a contract if I decided to leave. I bought my first horse, and decided to make the move to Winston-Salem,” Parham said.
Parham, who had spent her whole life working while being in school, worked at the barn where her horse was boarded too. “Once I completed my training, I stayed at Baptist for a while. In between working in the operating room, I would take care of my horse, give riding lessons, and help as needed at the barn,” Parham said. “I saw a lot in the operating room. I did orthopedics, neurology and even open heart.”

Parham’s experience made her an obvious choice when Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center started an open-heart surgical center. “I was the first nurse that they hired for it,” Parham said. “That was where I stayed until I retired.” Once Parham retired, she knew that she wanted to get back to her love of art. “I ended up going to Salem College and got my bachelor of art degree. I loved being in Old Salem and my experience at the college in the art department,” Parham said. “I actually met my husband Mark during that time through our mutual friends. They insisted we would be a good match. I told them I would give it a shot under the condition that they joined us on the date. They did, and when I met Mark, we both realized our friends were right about us being a good match. We were married in 1996,” says Parham.

Mark and Pam shared a mutual love of living on farmland and farming. “Mark had built a house on land that his grandfather had owned (60 acres). We love to garden and have plenty of fruits and vegetables that keep us busy,” Parham said. “I like making apple butter from our apple trees, and even found a great resource in Clemmons where we got our apple trees from.” Of course, with Parham’s love for animals there are plenty in their home too. “We have several schnauzers, a chiweenie and a horse. I love painting all of the animals I have had. It inspired me to start my own business doing commissioned pieces for others. Animal portraits are my absolute favorite. I do enjoy landscapes too. I utilize watercolors, oil and acrylic for my work. In my first year of really making my hobby something more full time, I have done seven commissions. It usually takes me about a month to complete one. I spend a lot of time really capturing the personality of an animal and subject.”

Combining her talents and passions, Parham is looking forward to providing friends, family and members in the community pieces of art that bring them joy. “I have always loved giving art as gifts, but it’s been really fun to do it on a bigger scale. I’ve received a lot of encouragement from family and friends, especially at Reynolda Church. Maybe one day I can even do a book of paintings of all the dogs I have owned. I am enjoying exploring different options,” Parham said.