Parish D. Grimes, 42, benefits specialist


Parish Denise Grimes, a benefits specialist in the insurance industry who organized bone marrow drives in the African-American community, died March 27 of multiple myeloma at her father's home in Baltimore. She was 42.

Born in Rocky Mount, N.C., and raised in Woodlawn and Catonsville, Mrs. Grimes graduated from Woodlawn Senior High School in 1981. Her mother, Joyce Percell, taught in Baltimore County public schools; her father, Tharmon Percell, is retired from the Baltimore Police Department.

"When Denise's sister first introduced me to her, I thought she was just another friend," said Sherrie "Tina" Sims, who graduated with Mrs. Grimes from Woodlawn, where the two were cheerleaders. "But we lasted forever."

In 1985, Mrs. Grimes graduated from Norfolk State University with a degree in mass communications. There, she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha and later became a charter member in that sorority's Washington chapter. At Norfolk State, Mrs. Grimes was also voted "Ms. Senior," in charge of public relations for her graduating class.

After college, Mrs. Grimes began working for Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Washington. The bulk of her career was spent at Hodge, Hart & Schleifer Inc., an insurance agency in Montgomery County, where she worked as an accounts executive until she retired in 2005, after being diagnosed with cancer.

Mrs. Grimes met her future husband, Gregory O. Grimes, while a student at Norfolk State. The pair remained close but didn't marry until 1999. They settled in Bowie. A previous marriage, to Craig Smith in 1990, ended in divorce.

When diagnosed two years ago with multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer, Mrs. Grimes was determined to fight the disease. Though she never found a suitable donor, she organized three bone marrow drives through her church, in her Bowie community and through the International Myeloma Foundation. She encouraged at least 250 African-Americans to register their bone marrow types.

With her cancer temporarily in remission, Mrs. Grimes celebrated her birthday in October with a trip to Chicago with friends to watch a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show. "Everyone's dream is to meet Oprah," Mrs. Sims said. "She was still sick, but you couldn't tell, other than that her hair was very short from chemo. She always had had long, pretty hair."

Mrs. Grimes was devoted to her three children and loved spending summer vacations in Virginia Beach with the family.

Funeral services were held Saturday at Greater Mount Nebo AME Church in Bowie, where Mrs. Grimes was an active member.

In addition to her husband, mother and father, survivors her stepmother, Leslie Percell of Baltimore; a brother, Tharmon Percell Jr. of Pikesville; two sons, Grant A. Grimes and Garrett A. Grimes of Bowie; a daughter, Paige I.N. Smith of Bowie; four aunts; three uncles; and three nephews.

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