Packet Sea Foam: Seabrook resident one to mingle

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comOctober 17, 2011 

Thanks to June Eggert for sharing her insight into a special neighbor who will turn 100 this month.

HELENE SAUL PARRY

By June Eggert

Helene Parry moved into The Seabrook retirement community 29 years ago as one of the first five residents to buy an apartment there.

She says she walked up the stairs to the fifth floor while the first building still was under construction and looked out the window of one apartment. She liked what she saw, so she bought it. Her husband, George, had died two years earlier, and though she loved their home in Sea Pines, just one lot back from the ocean, she longed to be where she could mingle with people most of the day.

The Seabrook turned out to be exactly the kind of home she would love for the next 30 years of her life. She chose to leave her apartment and move into The Fraser Health Center, attached to The Seabrook administration building, about two years ago. She says, "We have such fun down here. We're all one big, happy family."

Today, Helene has become an inspiration to the entire Seabrook community. She spends her days walking around the entire "campus," pushing her walker ahead of her at a jogging rate that leaves companions out of breath.

From time to time she finds a good sunny spot to stop for a while and "commune with nature." She talks with anyone who stops to chat. There isn't any subject she can't converse about knowingly. Her mind is filled with wonderful stories about life in general and her own very remarkable life in particular. Today she will tell you that she is "busy every minute of the day" except for when she takes a nap.

Helene believes her long life has been a special gift because she always has loved people, especially children. When she learned at an early age she could not bear children, she chose to earn degrees in social work. She graduated from West Virginia University with a master's degree in social work, then became a case worker for the Children's Home Society of West Virginia. Eventually, she taught social studies in Union College in Barberville, Ky.

She will tell you that her mother was a "remarkable woman" who always encouraged her to follow her instincts and go out into the world to educate herself to the highest degree.

The family lived in Rogers Park, a Chicago suburb, where she was born. She went to a private pre-kindergarten by the time she was 3. When she was about 10, she was smitten with books. Her mother allowed her to ride alone on the elevated train to Marshall Fields department store in downtown Chicago so she could spend her time in its third-floor book store. She loved being surrounded by books and meeting other people who shared her intense interest.

When she graduated from high school, her mother sent her to the London School of Economics in England to become prepared to understand and face the approaching Depression.

During the summer she attended school in Geneva, Switzerland, to study the League of Nations and international relations.

The Depression wiped out her family's source of income, so she had to return home and go to work. She opened a day care center in her home. She tried to enlist in the Army to be "a soldier," but instead, they hired her to work attending board meetings to check out the security of many high-explosive plants around the country.

That is how she met her husband, George Parry, who also was on the boards. When he was sent to a new job for the government in West Virginia, she followed him and took a job in a laboratory nearby. One day George asked her to accompany him to a weekend in Washington, D.C. She said she would have to refuse, "unless they got married first." So, they did.

Her love of people has led her to travel all over the world, often alone but usually with one special friend or with groups such as the Audubon Society. She has kept a list of more than 68 trips she made from 1981 through 1999: Scotland, Venezuela, Alaska, Iceland, the Panama Canal, England, Costa Rica, the trans-Canada railroad, Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands and many sites in the U.S. are just a few of the places she has enjoyed visiting and learning about in person.

Today Helene still reads The Economist magazine and watches only one TV station: C-SPAN, which deals with current affairs.

Ask her what keeps her going with such fervor, she says, "I just enjoy the world. I love people, love meeting people ... that's what it's all about ... people, people, people."

That's all there is to living a fun-filled life for 100 years.

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