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Mildred Parsley

January 31, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Mildred Thompson Parsley, who died Jan. 21 at the age of 90. Her obituary was published in the Jan. 23 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Although born and raised in Howard County, Md., and by all accounts never getting much farther south than there, Mildred Thompson Parsley always had a natural Southern drawl.

At Ravenwood Lutheran Village in Hagerstown, where she lived for the last five years, the staff called her their "Southern belle."

"Mom's oldest grandchild, Renee, always thought her grandfather's name was 'Caw' because that is the way mom pronounced Carl," son Stuart Parsley said.

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Growing up poor, Mildred and her siblings were no strangers to hard work. There always were chores for her and two younger brothers -- Jack Thompson, who has passed away, and Robert Thompson, who lives in Finksburg, Md.

At the age of 14, Mildred's mother died, leaving her to raise her brothers. The youngest, Robert, was just 9 years old.

"Mildred was not only our big sister, but she also became a mother to us," said Robert, 83. "We were very close until the day she died."

Stuart said his uncles always called or sent Mother's Day cards to her every year.

Mature beyond her years, Mildred met her future husband on a midnight cruise on the Potomac River when she was just 16.

"She saw Dad, who was 10 years older, and she thought he was something," Stuart said.

They dated for two years, then were married Oct. 3, 1936.

The next day -- Oct. 4 -- was Carl's birthday so he never had a problem remembering his anniversary date.

In those early years, Mildred and Carl lived near Olney, Md. There, they bought a lot, built a home and had their first two children, Bill and Patricia.

Stuart and Gail were born in Woodbine, Md., where the family later had a farm and raised vegetables.

Three of the couple's four children survive. Patricia Firey passed away in 2008.

Carl, who died in 1986, became a meat cutter and store manager in Washington, D.C., until they moved to Washington County in 1951 so Carl could manage Baer Foods.

In 1958, Carl was chosen to serve as the clerk of the Washington County Commissioners. Four years later, he became a purchasing agent for Washington County Public Schools until he was appointed back to the clerk's post, where he served until 1974.

"Mom didn't go back to working until I was in the first grade," daughter Gail Aleshire said. For a number of years, Mildred worked in a series of school cafeterias.

When Mildred worked in those cafeteria lines, she paid attention to which children were struggling to afford those lunches and quietly gave them extra servings.

"Mom would explain to the cashier that they would pay later when they had the money," Gail said. The suspicion in the family was Mildred was paying for those youngsters.

"Some of those children came to the funeral and told us they always remembered her for that," Stuart said, his voice cracking with emotion. "Some said it was the best meal they got all day."

But Mildred's generosity didn't stop there.

"When we lived right along U.S. 40, there were often hobos up and down the road," Stuart said. "She always fed them, too."

Gail remembered several snowstorms during which truckers got stuck and were the beneficiaries of her mother's hospitality.

"I would get up in the morning and find a truck driver asleep on our couch," Gail said.

For the last 18 years of her working life, Mildred worked in the Washington County Tax Assessments office, retiring in 1979.

Stuart and Gail remarked that both their mother and father made a lot of friends in their lifetimes. More importantly, they kept those friends through the years.

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