12438227855?profile=RESIZE_710xKatherine Parr with Tuxedo, her 7-year-old Havanese, at home in Manalapan. Parr, a former schoolteacher, does design for her Katherine Parr Jewelry brand. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Brian Biggane

Katherine Parr calls meeting Beth Walton, CEO of the Town of Palm Beach United Way, as “one of the better things I’ve done.”

But for Walton, it’s the agency that has reaped more benefits from their relationship. “We’re so happy to have met her,” Walton said.

An entrepreneur, successful businesswoman, philanthropist and former schoolteacher who says she likes “to roll up my sleeves,” Parr got that opportunity when she was assigned to the allocations committee, which vets nonprofits seeking agency funds every year.

“That’s where we really learn about our volunteers,” Walton said. “We spent a great deal of time with her and she brought a tremendous amount of knowledge and depth into that process. Through that we really got to know her.”

Parr, who lives in Manalapan, so impressed leadership that within two years she became a member of the board of directors.

She is founder of Katherine Parr Jewelry and the co-founder, with her husband, Gary, of Parré Chocolat, which offers chocolate delights out of Via Roma Cafe on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

Parr, 45, grew up in a family of educators in Sea Girt, New Jersey, was educated at Villanova University and spent 5½ years teaching first grade to mostly migrant students at a Title I school in Long Branch, New Jersey.

“I also developed programs including a leadership program and a world language program for the Spanish language,” said Parr, who had a minor in Spanish and then lived six months in Spain to understand the language better.

“I brought in resources from the United Nations and other places that would enhance the programming. I wrote the curriculum. Because it was mostly an immigrant population from Brazil, Mexico, India, all around the world, instead of showing what’s different about us, I would show what’s similar, because we have more in common than we do differences.”

A designer for 15 years with her brand Katherine Parr Jewelry, Parr was recently commissioned by the Qatar Fund for Development to design a collection of carpets hand-made and hand-woven by women in Afghanistan. The effort was also commissioned by Turquoise Mountain, a nonprofit founded by England’s King Charles III.

“There are a lot of talented weavers there but it’s difficult for women (since) the Taliban took over; women’s rights are extremely limited,” Parr said. “It ranks 146th in human rights. They are making the carpets now and the marketing will launch in the fall to winter.”

Parr got inspiration for the designs from poppy flowers she saw on a trip to the north of Jordan, near Syria.

“I converted them into a style you might see in some of the modern homes today,” she said. “The muted tones, pastels, pinks, greens. I worked on it for a year in the design process.

“Similar to the jewelry business, you start with a concept, then there’s a hand sketch and then technical sketches on the computer, then color matching. It’s pretty complicated but it’s exciting.”

Parr was days away from heading off to Jordan last month on behalf of the Fulbright Specialist Program when the trip was postponed for security reasons. She expects to get the go-ahead when the region becomes safer.

“I’m bringing American expertise, resources and connections to help improve a university in Jordan for education and economic empowerment for women,” she said.

“The focus is on fashion entrepreneurship, which takes the jewelry experience and applies it to improve the lives there. Women are seen as the largest untapped resource in Jordan and all through the Middle East, and the embassy has indicated this will be culturally acceptable and economically impactful.”

Katherine met Gary Parr at a fundraiser for the New York Philharmonic in New York. They married and moved to Florida in 2020 when Gary, who is an executive with Apollo Global Management, was sent down to set up a Palm Beach office. They reside in the historic Vanderbilt house, Casa Alva, which was built by Consuelo Vanderbilt in 1934 in Point Manalapan.

“I always say Gary is a visionary and I’m a lucky girl,” she said.

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