Mary Parry Honored by Chamber

by Timothy W. Scee II
Special to
Published August 10
, 2010

—  “Well, I didn’t go to work at the chamber to stay there all those years,” said Mary M. Parry, a 50-year member of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, for whom it’s conference room was titled the “Mary Parry Room,” Monday.  

Mrs. Parry believed she and her granddaughter were simply invited to the chamber Monday morning for coffee and donuts.  

Instead, she arrived to find a blue and white Hawaiian lei hung over the threshold of the new room, filled with collages of clippings, pictures and memoirs, dedicated to the woman who began her service to the GWNC Chamber in 1960.

Mrs. Parry said her long-time journey with the GWNC Chamber was somewhat accidental. 

“I went there because the secretary was ill,” Mrs. Parry recalled. “Jean Hughes, who was the executive, was desperate and I said, ‘Gee, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask the Red Cross if I can have some time off,’ because I was a volunteer there.” 

Mrs. Parry, who served as the chamber’s executive director from 1984 to 1991, said the organization was “a whole lot different” in hear first years.  

“We didn’t do a lot of things. It was strictly membership and that’s what you went for.” 

Over the years, Mrs. Parry helped implement several new programs and events, neither the City of Watertown nor the GWNC Chamber had ever seen before, including Snowtown USA, Pumpkin Festival, Watertown Hotel Association, and the first annual Watertown Irish Festival.  

From the time Mrs. Parry first joined the chamber until she retired in 1991, membership grew 162 percent from 350 to 917. 

“She certainly is an icon in the North Country,” Peter J. Whitmore, executive director of the GWNC Chamber said. “... and has a history of being committed, supporting the chamber.”  

Nearly 20 years before her involvement with the GWNC Chamber, Mrs. Parry became active with the United Service Organization.  

“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.  

Sixty years later, she still serves on eight chamber committees and is involved with other organizations, including the Watertown Rotary Club.  

“I’ve had a great life, worked hard for everything,” Mrs. Parry said.  

She added, “I think the best thing we ever did was, in 1959, move to Watertown.” 

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