After 73 years, Mary Parry’s volunteer mission at the USO is officially complete.
Earlier this month, Parry, 91, moved to a retirement home in Ohio to be closer to her daughter, Barbara Miller, and will no longer be able to serve at the USO Fort Drum center in upstate New York.
The Geneva, New York, native, who has volunteered at many different USO centers, will be sorely missed.
“I think of Mary as a national treasure,” USO Fort Drum Director Karen Clark wrote in an email. “She started volunteering for the USO in 1941, worked at the Watertown Chamber for years, and volunteered with Rotary, the Salvation Army and Red Cross.”
Parry’s volunteer career at the USO began in 1941, just after she graduated high school.
As the American Profile reported in 2008:
Parry was 18 when she and her girlfriends signed up to help at a USO center housed in a former automobile showroom in her hometown of Geneva, N.Y. (pop. 13,617).
“The fellas were all joining the military,” she says. “So we thought, ‘Hey, we’ll go down there and dance. What else are we gonna do?’ Were we in for a rude awakening.”
[…] Over the decades, the jovial Parry has volunteered at several USO centers while living in various towns in the Northeast with her husband, Walter. In fact, when she moved to Watertown in 1959, Parry spotted a USO sign in a downtown window and soon she was running the place. When the building closed, she operated the organization out of her home, hosting cookouts for servicemen and sometimes taking in weary soldiers for the night to give them a small taste of home.
USO Fort Drum Director Karen Clark poses in front of a portrait of Mary Parry in 2008. The portrait still hangs in the USO Fort Drum center today. USO photo by Jason Cutshaw
Parry’s daughter, Barbara Miller, who’s father served in the Navy, says Parry loved every moment she spent volunteering for the USO and has many stories from her years of service.
“The USO was her life. It was totally her life,” Miller said.
Thank you, Mary Parry, for your decades of service to troops and their families.
Want to learn more about Marry Parry and her service? Check out this 2010 USO blog post about honoring Parry and thanking her for her service.