Kim Parsell, Affectionately Known as #wpmom Passes Away

WordCamp San Francisco 2014 By Sheri Bigelow
WordCamp San Francisco 2014 By Sheri Bigelow

In the eight years I’ve covered the WordPress scene, only once have I written about someone passing away. It’s with a heavy heart and great sadness to inform you that Kim Parsell passed away last week at her home in Southern, Ohio. The cause of death is unknown and a small service is tentatively scheduled for this Saturday. There’s also a memorial type of event being planned for WordCamp Columbus, OH.

Kim Parsell The Photographer

Before getting actively involved in the WordPress project, she was an avid photographer. Almost all of the photos she published were taken on her property in Southern, Ohio. She had an eye for nature’s beauty and showed the world through photography how beautiful Ohio is. Her photos are so good that I think she could have made a living selling them as prints.

Springtime Sky by Kim Parsell
Springtime Sky by Kim Parsell

Kim Parsell The Contributor

Kim Parsell's WordPress.org Profile
Kim Parsell’s WordPress.org Profile

In the past few years, Kim has worked on improving documentation in WordPress as a member of the docs team. She substantially contributed to the effort of adding inline documentation to every hook in WordPress. Her contributions got her mentioned by Matt Mullenweg (11:00 minute mark) during his State of the Word presentation at WordCamp San Francisco 2014. She’s contributed to every release of WordPress from 3.7 to 4.1.

Being mentioned in the State of the Word is one of Kim’s best moments and it meant a lot to her. Sarah Pressler accurately describes the jubilation felt by Kim, “Can you believe it? Me!!! In Matt’s talk! Me!? I…just …. I can’t believe it. Little ol’ me. An old lady up there on the screen with all the kids. It’s official, I really am #WPMom now.”

Kim Parsell The #wpmom

The Docs Team Meetup in Cincinnati 2013 - Image Courtesy of <a title="http://werdswords.com/whirlwind-wordpress-year/" href="http://werdswords.com/whirlwind-wordpress-year/">Drew Jaynes</a>
Kim Parsell With the Docs Team Meetup in Cincinnati 2013

Kim became known throughout the WordPress community as #wpmom, a title she fully embraced. She had a way of giving people purpose, taking them under her wing, and showing compassion when it was needed most. As Carrie Dils explains, “Folks jokingly call her #wpmom, but there’s a lot of truth there. She was very much like a mother figure, but never EVER in a condescending way.”

In a comment on the same post, Amanda describes exactly the type of person Kim was, “The greatest thing about Kim is that whether you’re standing at the back of the line or the front she would have walked her way down that line to let everyone know they were equally as important and that the only reason there’s a line is because everyone can’t be in the same place at once.”

As Jayvie Canono found out, Kim didn’t put up with bull crap from anyone and had no problem letting you know about it. It’s how she told people which made her unique, “She brought people together and had the salty, country-gal personality who would not put up with your bull crap and yet would never break one rule of etiquette in the process of letting you know.”

Kim Parsell The Person I Knew

Sunset as Seen From Kim Parsell's Property
Sunset as Seen From Kim Parsell’s Property

Kim referred to herself as “The little ol’ crazy lady at the top of a hill in Ohio.” She wasn’t crazy but rather, an independent, strong-willed woman who at times was stubborn. A hard worker, she spent a lot of time in rural Ohio alone, “Chillin’ on a dirt road.” She routinely drove an hour and a half north to attend our WordPress meetup because there wasn’t a person within 30 miles of her house who knows what WordPress is.

When I started WordPress Weekly in 2009, she would often join me on each episode to provide the countdown before I hit the record button. She was occasionally a guest on the show as on episode 87. After the show, she would stick around for a half hour to an hour to talk about whatever was on her mind. In many ways, the show offered her an opportunity to connect and speak to WordPress people every week. The show was the closest thing to a meetup she could regularly attend.

She lived in a rural area where her internet was capped at 1.5MB, but it didn’t stop her from contributing to WordPress. Despite living on top of a hill in Southern Ohio, often alone, she left a lasting impact on people across the world. She wasn’t much of a speaker but at WordCamp San Francisco 2014, she gave a presentation on WordPress documentation.

Kim Parsell, You Are Missed

Kim, you’re missed by a lot of people, some of whom you’ve never met. That’s the kind of impact and legacy you’ve left us with. You’re an inspiration to become a better person and be more kind to those in the WordPress community. You opened your heart and soul to whoever needed help and ended every exchange with a smile. I will miss you friend, colleague, and fellow buckeye. My deepest condolences are with the Parsell family.

If you have a lasting memory of Kim, please share it in the comments.

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23 Comments


  1. I have had a chance to hang out with Kim at numerous events, and I always had a great time. She was extremely nice and can hold a conversation for hours. I will definitely miss her.

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  2. Being local, I got to see and get a hug from Kim several times a year. One thing that will stand out is walking her back to her truck in Kent after the Northeast Ohio WordPress Meetup for the WP 10 year anniversary. I’d recently quit smoking in February and she told me how proud of me she was. She also gave me the most comforting hug ever that night, after telling her everything I had recently gone through. I’m sad I’ll never get another hug from her at a Meetup or WordCamp, and I’ll forever miss her support on Twitter. We lost a great person and her absence will be felt for a long time to come.

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  3. I am honored to have hugged Kim at #WCSF two different times. She will be missed by everyone #wpmom

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  4. Of all the people I’ve always wanted to meet in the WordPress community, Kim was at the top of the list. I can’t remember the first time I spoke online with her. I just remember her always being around and always having something nice to say.

    What I remember most about her is that she took the time out of her day to encourage me in my non-WordPress endeavors. Whenever I’d write a post about gardening or raising chickens, she’d have something encouraging to say or to offer helpful advice. I have WordPress-related posts with 100s of comments. But, it’s those few comments on personal posts that make blogging seem worthwhile. Those are the ones that you remember.

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    1. Funny you mention that Justin. When doing research, I routinely came across comments from Kim on different blog posts of WordPress people that had nothing to do with WordPress. For example, you wrote something about getting fruit out of your garden and she congratulated you in the comments. She seemed to be everywhere, giving encouragement and a pat on the back for a job well down.

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  5. Kim was a great person, she’s going to be missed for sure. She had a hug and a smile for everyone.

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  6. I’ve already missed her a lot in the mornings on our #wpmorningcrew hashtag because, like me, she was an early riser. Sometimes when I was a boor on Twitter, she would calmly and mom-like introduce me to a new perspective, never a snap back or a bite. That trait is making me change my tone.

    Her last tweet to me was wishing me a happy birthday two days before she passed:

    Hey @jpetersen, Happy Birthday! Hope your special day is filled with everything happy and wonderful. :)

    How could you NOT like this woman? As a fellow Buckeye (though I’ve moved), I felt closer to her knowing she lived like my grandpa did for so long and how my grandma still does, on a farm on top of a hill in north-central Ohio. We are all better people for knowing her, even if only on social media or in Docs.

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  7. Thanks for this kind and thoughtful post.

    It’s been said before, but worth saying again – Kim is the perfect example of a person who is not a self identified developer having an incredible impact – and that community, compassion, and connection is what we’re all about. A shining example of leadership and kindness.

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  8. I am still shocked and can’t believe this at the same time. We met in SF this year, been in the same Hotel, shared a ride few times and even walked to Automattic’s HQ.

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  9. While it seems like I knew her since forever, due to her WPWeekly appearances, i only met Kim in person for the first time at WC Columbus a couple years ago. Even so, she made me feel like one of her family. Kim was the heart and soul of WordPress community for anyone who knew or even merely interacted with her. We have lost someone truly special. Rest in peace, #wpmom.

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  10. I didn’t know Kim but it sounds like a huge loss that I missed her. We should always take pride in and acknowledge those who step to the forefront and take an active role in leading and helping others, for those are the true leaders and visionaries. Those who give the rest of us a “leg up” when we need it most.

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  11. I never met Kim Parsell in person but I have been encouraged by her generosity. So glad to see that I was just one of many who let her know she was appreciated. This is such a beautiful tribute.

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  12. By the way: WordPress 4.2 “Parsell” has a nice ring to it. Maybe we can make that happen?

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  13. Jeff- Thanks for telling us about Kim’s passing over here at WPTavern. She means a lot to many people, and I know that includes yourself. She will be missed. I’m still shocked. She was a very warm and welcoming woman, and even my grandma remembers her when she was in the Enon area. I’ve shared this with the All About WordPress community on Facebook as well. Kim will be missed.

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  14. I’ve met her only once at your meetup maybe 5 or 6 yrs ago. Since I haven’t been active much in NE Ohio WP community, I do regret that I should have done it to get to know her! Even if it was only once, she surely impressed me a lot as a strong woman, savvy tech lady and more! Thank you, Jeff for sharing your memory and thank you Kim!

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  15. I had no idea…. Kim was one of the first people who really encouraged me to step out beyond the free WP hosting. She did it in the most understanding and encouraging way… taking time to figure out where I was, what I was doing and what would help me. Seemed anytime I tweeted about a concern or issue she was there to help. Sorry for the loss in the community.

    Since I work in agriculture, Kim and I would often trade tales of rural life and farmers, many of whom have come to embrace blogging and other forms of social media in the last several years as people desired to learn more about where their food comes from. Kim’s undertanding of both of those really helped me challenge myself and forge a path forward that let me develop a self-hosted site. She will certainly be missed.

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  16. I had no idea Kim had passed. I met who through Twitter and she was always so helpful and encouraging about offering WordPress assistance and answering questions I had while learning. Right now … I am stunned. She will really be missed.

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  17. I just got the word. So heartbroken. Kim was there for me so many times, and such a great joy to work with. I wish I’d taken more time to get to know her better, she was such a joy.

    The WordPress Community is a little dimmer without her shining example.

    Thanks.

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  18. I just found this and have enjoyed hearing how much my sister had impacted the lives of so many. Thank you for introducing me to “country lady” you knew. I know how much impact the WordPress community had on her. Your accolades would embarass and please her very much.

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  19. Sad to see she’s gone. Grateful to her for her good plugin, which I have used. Thankful for all her huge contribution to WordPress codecs and documentation. Absolutely amazing work done.

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  20. I never knew Kim parsons, but I’m happy I came across this post. Sometimes i worry about whether the internet keeps people from genuinely caring about others as actual “people”. Each time i see something like this, it’s a reminder that we can transcend the veil of technology. Kim seems like she the type of person worth knowing online, or off.

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    1. Yes my sister Kim was a very affectionate person and very involved in WordPress and its people. She always took care to connect with her online friends on a personal level.

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