After 73 Years, USO Fort Drum Bids Farewell to Longtime Volunteer Mary Parry

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Editor’s note: Mary Parry passed away April 11, 2015. USO Fort Drum shared this tribute to her service on its Facebook page.

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.

Thank You, Mary Parry!

USO Fort Drum Director Karen Clark prepares for the center opening in front of a photo of Mary Parry, in 2008. (USO photo by Jason Cutshaw)

Who is Mary Parry?  “I think Mary Parry is one of the USO’s greatest ambassadors; sharing our story of support for the Troops better than anyone I know.  She has stories about the USO through WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the conflicts of today,” says Fort Drum USO Center Director Karen Clark.

“Mary has been with the organization since the beginning and sixty-nine years later the USO Fort Drum is honored when she stops by the Center for a special event. When Mary is at the USO Fort Drum there is mutual admiration.  She hugs or shakes the hands of Soldiers thanking them for their service, and they will shake her hand and thank her for her service also.  We are blessed to have such a dedicated and loyal USO volunteer in New York but we need additional help.  Hopefully other patriotic citizens will follow in Mary’s footsteps and will contact their local USO to volunteer.”

We know that many of your have followed in Parry’s footsteps, and her impact on the community has been tremendous.  As reported: “Nearly 20 years before her involvement with the GWNC Chamber, Mrs. Parry became active with the United Service Organizations.

“Franklin Roosevelt had said, ‘We need something for the military,’” Mrs. Parry said. “They started the USO and, in June we graduated, and six of us gals went down and figured, ‘We’re going down and dance for the soldiers.’”

Mrs. Parry moved to Watertown in 1959 where she ran the USO headquarters out of the YWCA building on Public Square.”

Thanks, Mary Parry, for all of your years of service.  And thank you to ALL of our dedicated volunteers around the globe who make sure the USO is there for our Troops and their families…Until Every One Comes Home.