Master Chief Photographers Mate (DV)
Born May 29, 1930 Highland Park, MI
Died September 6, 1999
Service Dates
1948 - 1971

Thomas Parkinson, Jr., a true Renaissance man with a San Diego flair never let age interfere with his many endeavors.  At age 30 in 1960, he was the oldest man to train for the Navy's rigorous Underwater Demolition Team, the precursor of the Navy SEALS.  

Later, Mr. Parkinson worked for 15 years as a partner in an underwater yacht maintenance business, scrubbing yacht hulls well into his 60s.  

He learned how to surf at 65 and studied yoga at 67, the oldest participant in an arduous program that began every morning at 3:30 in an ashram at Monghyr, India.  

On his return from India last year, Mr. "Parkinson was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died Sept 6 at San Diego' Hospice. He was 69.  

Even his illness did not slow him down. A few weeks before he died, Mr. Parkinson was swimming laps for an hour, several times a week, at Bally Total Fitness in Mission Valley.  

Mr. Parkinson was born in Highland Park, Mich., on May 29, 1930. He joined the Navy at age 18, serving on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.  After nine years, he left the Navy to attend the University of Miami where he also worked as a diver on a research vessel. 

He went back into the Navy in 1960, entering Underwater Demolition Team where his specialty became underwater photography.  He went to the Navy's "hard hat' diving school, where he became a first class diver, later serving in the experimental diving unit in Washington, DC, and in an underwater harbor clearance unit in Vietnam.  Jerry Todd, a former Underwater Demolition Team member who trained with him, said Mr. Parkinson used to routinely breath-hold dive more than 100 feet. 

During advanced underwater training in 1960, the team dived on a shipwreck in 110 feet of water off St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  While the other members of the team used tanks and other equipment, Mr. Parkinson would hold his breath, dive down to the wreck using only a mask and flippers, shoot a few pictures of the team, go back to the surface for a breath, then do it all again. "He was the most amazing diver you ever saw,'  Todd said.  

Mr. Parkinson came to San Diego in the late 1960s and served in Combat   Camera, a Navy photography unit that sent him all over the Pacific making training and instructional films.  The Navy sent him to the University of Southern California School of Cinematography, where he earned a bachelor's degree. Years later, nearing age 50, he went back to USC to earn a master's degree in cinematography. 

After retiring from the Navy as a master chief photographer, Mr. Parkinson wrote scripts for military and industrial training films, while at the same time starting his underwater boat-cleaning business.  He had lived in Coronado and San Diego on-and-off since 1967.   In the 1980s, he began taking long trips overseas, living for periods in France and Egypt and later in India and Nepal. He came back to San Diego and worked as the manager of the Alcoholics Anonymous Central Office from 1991 to 1994. After that, he taught English as a second language at an adult night school in Point Lorna.  In his spare time, he was active in the Hanohano Outrigger Canoe Club on Mission Bay, enjoying another rigorous sport he took up in his 60s. He complemented a 20-year study of yoga with ballet. His reading ranged from James Joyce to Leo Toistoy 

He is survived by a daughter, Julie Parkinson of  Coronado; and a sister, Julie Smith of Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich.