Will Parry Celebrated for 90 Years of Activism and Dedication
Former Advisory Council member Will Parry was recently honored for his service and devotion to social justice.
Guests joined in as Will performed "This Land is Your Land" and other moving and meaningful numbers.
Will Parry, together with his late wife, Louise, helped build the labor movement and the senior citizens movement in the Pacific Northwest. Recently, the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans (PSARA) celebrated Will's 90th birthday with songs, poetry, and heartfelt tributes.
Tom Parry, Will's 87-year-old brother, captivated the crowd with humorous stories about Will's youth, his family and their deep Northwest roots.
Through his college education at Washington State College (now WSU) and the impact of the Depression on his family and community, Will developed the belief that Communism held out the best hope for the majority of people in our country. After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Parry returned to the Puget Sound where he was a journalist for progressive and Communist newspapers.
Jeff Johnson of the WA State Labor Council recounted how Parry was targeted in the Red Scare of the 1950s. Will was called to testify before the state version of HUAC. He and his family were followed and harassed by the FBI. According to Johnson, "The Taft-Hartley Act was passed and radicals were being purged from the labor movement." Johnson says that according to Will, "They drove the radicals out and it took the starch out of the labor movement." Johnson concluded by noting that in recent years, the Washington Labor Council "honored Will as a hero of the Washington State Labor Movement."
Will needed to support his wife and two kids after he was driven out of journalism, so he went to work at Longview Fibre's corrugated box factory in south Seattle. Bill Farris, President of the Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers, Local 817, spoke about Will's 21 years working for Longview Fibre. Will became a leader within the AWPPW, serving as their first elected lobbyist in Olympia. Farris said, "He was an advocate for people who needed help, an advocate for the union. I've lost count of the number of picket lines I've walked with Will."
Will retired from the box factory after 21 years and shortly thereafter began teaching in the Shoreline College Labor Studies Program. Lynn Domingo, an organizer with Legacy of Equality, Leadership, and Organizing (LELO) said she enrolled in a labor history course Parry was teaching. "I was floundering, wondering where I was going," she said. "I have to thank Will for the salvation he provided in that class."
Thurston Muskelly, former Chair of the Board at the Central Area Senior Center and now a Board Member, spoke of Will's efforts "in the fight back against President Reagan's drive to destroy public health." Will also played a central role when the CASC was facing bankruptcy. He and Muskelly spearheaded a fund drive that brought in $131,000.
Will is the editor of the Retiree Advocate, the high quality and feisty monthly newsletter of the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans. He also served for years, until recently, as the President of PSARA. Ed Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance of Retired Americans (ARA), brought greetings from ARA headquarters in Washington D.C. He said the national staff waits with anticipation each month for the arrival of the PSARA's newsletter. He praised Parry as a national leader of the senior citizens movement.
The evening was filled with wonderful music and poetry, with exquisite vocals by Rebel Voices, two women whose beautiful spirited harmonies captivated the people in attendance.
At the end, Will took the stage with guitar in hand and his fiddle-playing son, Jon Parry, by his side. He led the 300 attendees in singing "Carry On," "This Land Is Your Land," "Goodnight Irene," and "Down By the Riverside." He urged that we get enough signatures to put the state income tax initiative on the ballot. Said Will, "I'm glad my birthday served as an excuse to get us all together. It is a time to celebrate the unity and strength of the movement, not the feeble strength of one."