Mary Parsons served in U.S. Navy
"Her parents had known each other in Croatia. Her mother arrived in Northern California in 1913"
Obituary: Mary Parsons served in U.S. Navy
By Ted Bell -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 5:30 a.m. PST Saturday, March 23, 2002
Born in the humble surroundings of a California mining town, Mary Saban Parsons served in the U.S. Navy, raised children, received a college degree late in life and, according to her friends, valued her origins.
She died of heart disease Tuesday in a Roseville care center at age 87.
Her parents had known each other in Croatia. Her mother arrived in Northern California in 1913, four years after her father. He worked at the Mammoth copper mine.
Mrs. Parsons was born in Kennett, near the Shasta County mine, which is now under the waters of Shasta Lake.
Her early life was a series of dirt-floor mining camps in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and California.
"She said it was a hard life but a good life," said her friend Rita Lind. "Her family was very close and there was a lot of love. She said her parents were always inviting other miners, especially those from the old country, to eat or stay with them.
"They didn't have much but they shared all of it," said Lind.
All the moving caused Mary to fall two years behind in school. Her mother finally put her foot down, saying that the girl needed to stay in one place long enough to catch up and start high school.
The family moved to Sacramento where she attended St. Joseph's Academy. Her father commuted to mining jobs.
Mrs. Parsons graduated in 1935 and went to work for the telephone company as a switchboard operator in Nevada City. When she got a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Nevada City she met a schoolteacher named Charles Parsons.
In 1943 Mrs. Parsons joined the WAVES, serving at the 12th Naval District staff headquarters in San Francisco.
It was quite an experience for a small-town girl in a big city during a war, said Lind.
"She was the shy and quiet one. When the rest of the girls wanted to go into town and have some drinks, she'd be the one urging caution," Lind said. In 1944 she married Charles Parsons. She was discharged as a Yeoman Third Class in 1945.
The couple moved to Auburn after the war where her husband taught and was an administrator for Placer schools and a junior college. In 1962 they moved to Roseville when Charles Parsons was appointed superintendent of the Roseville Joint High School District.
After their two daughters were grown, Mrs. Parsons attended Sierra College and in 1976 was awarded an associate of arts degree. She was 64 years old and, at that time, the oldest person to earn the AA degree from the college.
"She was just the epitome of a good person," said Lind. "Everybody else came first. She was -- a lady."
Late in life, Mrs. Parsons was stricken with Alzheimer's disease, curtailing her contact with her close friends and her beloved Croatian cooking.
Besides her husband of 58 years, Mrs. Parsons is survived by her daughters, Pamela Mary Hughes, of Decatur, Ga., and Rebecca Sharon Andersen, of Oakland, and three grandchildren.
She is also survived by Josianne Colin Desbos, an exchange student from France who stayed with the Parsons in 1963-64, and her "French grandchildren."
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Canice Catholic Church, 317 Washington St., Nevada City, at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Alzheimer's Society or the Shriners Hospital for Children Northern California.
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