Happy birthday to Frances Marie Parr, a Houma native who recently celebrated her 105th birthday! Parr was born in Houma, Louisiana on March 16, 1918, and has lived here her whole life. She is an experienced world traveler, decorated veteran, and beloved aunt– the true picture of a hometown hero.
“Houma was very different back then,” recalled Parr. “It was very small, everyone knew everyone else, and we all walked everywhere– I walked to and from kindergarten myself. The best part of growing up here was how much family I had here and how often I got to see them.” Parr is the oldest of six children, and went on to become a teacher in Terrebonne Parish at 18 years old, right after finishing high school.
In February of 1943, she signed up for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to serve her country in World War II. The service took her– who had never been out of the country before– halfway across the world to Casablanca, Morocco, then to North Africa, and finally across the Mediterranean Sea, where she landed in Italy to complete her service. “I remember the air raids every night in Naples during the war,” she recalled. “We would run up and down eight flights of stairs constantly to the bunker. That’s why I am so fit now!” she laughed. Parr recalls attending a ceremony in Italy held by Pope Pius XII to celebrate military personnel for their service. “I was one of only two girls in attendance,” she said. “I remember Pope Pius XII looking at us curiously and wondering why there were women at a military event. But we were in the service too.” All six of Parr’s siblings, including two sisters, also served in different branches of the U.S. military during World War II.
After two years serving in Italy, she was discharged from the military in October 1945, receiving several medals over her lifetime and two commendations from generals for her exceptional work. She continued her work as a teacher after returning to Houma, also completing various part-time jobs as an insurance agent. “I never married or had children, even when I came back from the service,” Parr said. “I was too busy!” Alongside all of this, one of her deepest passions is world traveling– she has been to multiple countries across several continents, most often accompanied by her nieces or nephews. “I was able to take each of my nieces and nephews on a special trip abroad,” said Parr. “On these trips, I had them fill out all the paperwork, learn a bit of the language, and immerse themselves in the culture. I wanted them to see that there was more to the world outside of Houma.” Parr continued to make traveling a priority for herself and her family, even into her elderly years.
Parr told The Houma Times her secret to living such a long and happy life. “Walking, as much as you can,” she chuckled. “We had to walk everywhere when I was a child and that helped so much. My family also always ate fresh vegetables straight from the garden, and I never eat sugar either. I think all of that has helped me stay healthy and live such a long and blessed life.”
Happy 105th birthday to Frances Marie Parr, and many thanks for your inspiring contributions to history, society, and the Houma community throughout your lifetime!