“Now I dedicate my service, pledge myself and all I am,

Thus to make of life a triumph, over sorrow over death,

Give me pride in my endeavor

In the service of my Corps, o grant that I may heal the suffering ones,”

— the Cadet Nurse service hymn.

As we honor our veterans this week of Veterans Day, we remember the loss of one of Darien’s most beloved public servants — Pat Parlette, who was in the first class to graduate the United States Cadet Nurse Corps.

Mary Patricia Parlette, a lifelong Darien resident, was born on Feb. 13, 1926, and died peacefully on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 at Fairfield County Hospice House in Stamford.

Pat, as she was known, served as last year’s Memorial Day parade Grand Marshal. In the 1943 Memorial Day Parade, Pat led the Darien High School Band as the first female Drum Major, so serving as the 2019 Grand Marshal brought her full circle to the Parade 76 years later.

One of Pat’s most memorable quotes was “there are no strangers in the world, just friends you haven’t met yet.” And although her heart has always been in Darien, Pat always said her favorite spot is “where ever I am.”

Background

Pat graduated from Darien High School in 1943, and from Greenwich Hospital as a registered nurse in 1946. Part of her training as a student nurse was spent at Yale where she learned special care for polio victims living in iron lungs. Although her father, Oliver served in World War I, Pat was personally introduced to the military when she worked at the Tripler Military Hospital in Hawaii caring for polio patients.

A bill was introduced by then Congresswoman, Frances Bolton (R-Ohio) on March 29, 1943, calling for the establishment of a government program to provide grants to schools of nursing, to facilitate the training of nurses to serve in the armed forces, government and civilian hospitals, health agencies, and in war related industries. The Bolton Act established the United States Cadet Nurse Corps, and was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and became law on July 1, 1943, and Pat was in the first class to graduate.

Pat was hired by Seaboard Airlines, and wore her white nurse’s uniform because at the time, the Military Air Transport System (MATS) contracted with civilian airlines and required the presence of a registered nurse on flights. These assignments took her to military bases all over the world especially Japan, Vietnam, and Europe. Her airline career lasted 38 years. Her last flight was in a C-47 at a veterans’ reunion in Westerly, R.I. in 1995.

Bill to honor cadet nurses as veterans

In April of 2019, U.S. Senator Steve Daines, along with senators Elizabeth Warren, Susan Collins, and Angus King, introduced bipartisan legislation to honor the women who served in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II with honorary veteran status. If passed, this bill would credit service in the Cadet Nurse Corps between 1943 and 1948 as active military service for the purpose of attaining status as a veteran.

According to govtrack.us, Bill S.997, “A bill to recognize and honor the service of individuals who served in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II, and for other purposes,” is still in the initial stages.

Darien community contributions

In 2008, Pat was honored by the Darien Old Timers’ Athletic Association with the Community Civic Award. This award is given for “regular participation in community civic service of constant loyalty, unquestioned integrity, peerless leadership and sense of fair play,” and “exceptional service to others in the finest American tradition. Darien’s Monuments and Ceremonies Commission has attested to Pat’s patriotism as she regularly attends and participates in ceremonies to honor veterans, and the victims of 9/11.

Pat was a member of St John’s R. C. Church. Pat traveled the world, walking on the Great Wall of China, riding in a home-built seaplane with George Jacoban, taking a zip line ride over the Treadline Mine in Alaska, and visiting Egypt, Vietnam and Jordan.

Between travels, she volunteered extensively in Darien. At the Darien Community Association, she was dedicated to customer service in their Thrift Shop and acted as treasurer for many years. The proceeds from the thrift shop support the DCA Scholarship Fund. In 1943 Pat was awarded a DCA scholarship which she credited as the bedrock of her career as a Registered Nurse. She also volunteered at Darien Book Aid, St. John RC Church, At Home in Darien, and at the Noroton Fire Department where she was a familiar figure serving beer under the beer tent at their Annual Block Party.

A true patriot

“She was a great lady and a true Patriot. I feel proud to have known her,” said Karen Polett, who serves as the secretary of the town’s Monuments & Ceremonies Commission and who interviewed Pat for the article announcing her as the Memorial Day parade Grand Marshal.

Polett noted that Parlette donated her father's helmet, whistle and letters he wrote home to the Darien Historical Society, and they were part of the recent exhibit, 'Darien in WWI, Over Here"

“She was a truly exceptional person!” Polett said.

Former Darien VFW Post Commander Phil Kraft called Pat “One of the kindest, gentlest souls to walk this earth. I first met her right after 9/11. She had taken it upon herself to place flags in as many receptacles all over town.”

“She came to me at HonorBound Foundation for resupply until we and the VFW had run out. A true patriot. She will be missed,” said Kraft, who is executive director of Honorbound, an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of veterans and their families facing hardships.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said while she didn’t know Pat well, “I wish I did, because the several times being in her company, most recently celebrating her at the parade as the Grand Marshal, she was a bright light.”

“She is the most positive person I think I have ever met in my entire life,” Stevenson said.

“For me, and everything happening in our life right now, she represents what we should all aspire to be. I feel sad that I didn’t know her better,” she said.

When anyone ever asked Pat how she was, Stevenson said she’d respond with a resounding, “I’m great!”

Pat was laid to rest on Saturday, Nov. 9, in “the most beautiful outfit she had the privilege to wear,” her nurse's uniform — the garment of her service on land, in the air and at sea during her life as a Registered Nurse.

“We’ve lost a good one,” Stevenson said.

“Heaven just received an angel. She was of a bygone era. If we could all be as positive as she is, life would be a whole lot better for us all,” she said.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Darien Community Association (DCA), 274 Middlesex Road, Darien, CT 06820.