When Louise Parry died suddenly last June 29 at the age of 85, she left unfinished reading on her bedside table: David McCullough’s “John Adams,” Frances L. Broderick’s study of the great W.E.B. Du Bois, Eric Foner’s “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution.”
Early in life, Parry set about addressing that unfinished business. A working-class revolutionary, she foresaw a socialist United States, with the power in the hands of working men and women.
All her life, she felt at one with nature — the universe in its full majesty. “She was a robin,” her son Jon said in simple elegy. An unpretentious songbird in human form.
Politically fearless, Parry did not wilt under the savagery of McCarthyism, and in her final months she was still on the battlefront against the George W. Bush regime.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer accompanied its respectful obituary with a picture of Parry at a recent peace demonstration, wearing her trademark cheerful expression and displaying the sign she had lettered for the occasion: “Stop Mad Cowboy Disease!”
When a dear friend, Elmer Kistler, ran for the Legislature as a Communist, Louise proudly chaired his campaign committee. In the 1980s, she circulated petitions in conservative Boise to win a place on the Idaho ballot for retired steelworker and Communist leader Gus Hall.
Her working life began as a teenager, cleaning the houses of the well-to-do in Bellevue. During World War II, she worked in a Massachusetts shipyard as a first-class Navy welder, building tank landing ships for the invasions of Normandy, Italy and North Africa.
In 1946, back in Seattle and working at the telephone company, she met her future husband Will. They became active in the campaign to re-elect Hugh DeLacy, a progressive Democratic congressman. But DeLacy was red-baited to defeat at the hands of a Republican nonentity, Homer Jones.
Meanwhile, Louise had become involved in an organizing strike at the phone company. When the strike was broken, she was blacklisted.
In December 1946, she and Will were married. When they applied for the marriage license, the clerk said, “That will be five dollars, please.” Will turned to Louise and said, “You told me it was three dollars!” They found a jeweler who was going out of business and for $7.50 bought Louise the simple gold ring she wore throughout life.
Sixty years of married life followed, as they often told one another, “through thin and thinner.” Naomi was born in 1948, Jonathan in 1952, and in that year they bought the modest house on Seattle’s Beacon Hill that was home to Louise for the rest of her life.
Louise taught pre-school children, worked as a secretary, then as a bundler in a garment shop. Laid off during the McCarthy years, Will found a job in a corrugated box plant, where he worked for 21 years.
For 30 years, Louise was a faithful presence in the second violin section of the Seattle Philharmonic, a respected amateur symphony. Her role, she often said, was simply “to contribute to the orchestra’s sound.”
In 1993, Louise received the Esther Tye Smith Award for “Outstanding Service and Dedication” to the orchestra.
At age 50, Louise returned to the University of Washington to earn a degree in social work. At 60 she found the best job of her life: a job with union pay and benefits as a secretary in the diabetes research program at Seattle’s Veterans Administration hospital.
She helped organize Local 1488 of the State Employees at the university. After she retired in 1995, her union presented her with a certificate of appreciation for service to the local. Earlier awards included State Employees Local 443 1992 Political Action Volunteer of the Year, and Washington Federation of State Employees 1993 Outstanding Service Award.
In 1997, she was Seattle coordinator for the AFL-CIO’s Senior Summer campaign supporting the United Farm Workers organizing drive in the Central Washington apple orchards.
At its 2004 convention, the Washington State Labor Council gave Louise and Will its “Power to the People” award for lifetime service to working men and women.
Louise devoted her final decade to the senior movement, as a leading activist with the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans and its predecessor, the Puget Sound Council of Senior Citizens.
She is survived by her husband Will; children Naomi and Jonathan; three grandchildren, Corrina Parry and Matthew and William Poulin; and her brother William G. Long Jr.
Contributions in Louise’s memory may be sent to the Puget Sound Alliance or to a cause of your choice.
Abridged from The Retiree Advocate, Seattle, Wash.