Posts Tagged ‘Will Parry’

Interview with Will Parry, Part IV

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Editor’s Note: In 2010 former Retiree Advocate Editor and lifelong working class activist Will Parry gave a 90th birthday interview to Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis. This is the concluding part of that interview.

For those who knew Will, his answers to these final questions illustrate the boundless optimism and faith in working people that kept him going even through the worst years of the McCarthy period.

Can the labor movement ever regain its strength?

I wouldn’t underestimate its remaining strength. It’s all connected with things like NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and the export of jobs to low-wage countries and the destruction of our manufacturing base, which was the base of strength of the labor movement. Look, here are the garbage workers—there are still people on strike fighting for the best contract. The UFCW [United Food and Commercial Workers] at the grocery stores are in the middle of negotiations and the employers are trying to water down their health care and increase deductibles and take away some of their benefits, and the workers are not going to stand for it. If necessary, there’ll be a strike … They’re not horsing around. They mean business about protecting what they’ve won.

What keeps you so optimistic?

What keeps me so optimistic is, among other things, my 21 years [with the workers] at the Longview Fibre Company. I know firsthand all their shortcomings, defects, misunderstandings, lack of sophistication, [but] my God, they’re strong and I believe in workers. … No matter how they transform the economy, the work has to be done and capitalism creates workers. It has to—You can’t have any profits without workers. You can have all the bankers in the world, but if you don’t have someone cleaning the toilets, you don’t have a society … When I was young, I thought by now we’d have socialism in America. But I go by the advice of the rabbi of two millennia ago: “You are not required to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.” None of us finish the work. It goes on, but we have a responsibility while we’re above ground to do something about it.

Interview With Will Parry, Part III

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Editor’s Note: In 2010, former Retiree Advocate editor and lifelong working class activist Will Parry gave a 90th birthday interview to Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis. This is Part III of that interview. The conclusion will follow in a subsequent issue.

What was it like having the FBI follow you around?

I’ll give you one example. They had a stool pigeon named Traynor Hansen who worked for the Seattle P-I who was an FBI agent … He came to our office at the People’s World one time and he must have been wired. He asked me incriminating questions like: What would you do if you stumbled across some military secrets? Would you turn them over to the Russians? I’m putting it crudely. I told him I didn’t care about military secrets. I cared about the welfare of people. He started the conversation by flattering me about my coverage of the Smith Act trial. I knew that was bullshit because I was very green at covering legal proceedings and I was not at all satisfied with my own coverage, so he was fluffing me up … He subsequently came out publicly as an FBI agent.

They recruited throughout the labor movement. They had a twofold attack. From within they recruited stool pigeons and people to [be] disruptive and divisive. It still goes on today. There are people in the labor movement for whom the leadership never does anything right, they’re never radical enough … I’m often critical of leadership, but not that way.

[Then] there was this nationwide campaign to get the reds out of the labor movement. They got rid of the communists and all the militancy, all the left-wingers. It took the starch out of the labor movement. It took out the people who’d done most of the organizing and led the strikes and done the work of the labor movement. That was a tragedy for the country, and we’re still trying to repair that.

It was a concerted campaign by employers and Congress. It had its legislative focus on the Taft-Hartley Act and others like it and it had an on-the-job focus with stool pigeons and a media focus on “exposing” the reds in the labor movement. [It] took the guts of the labor movement.

What was the Smith Act trial?

The Smith Act was another repressive law aimed at the Communist Party. Eight leaders of the Communist Party in Seattle and Washington were hauled into court and charged not with conspiring to overthrow the government, but with conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government. It was several steps removed from any action to overthrow the government. It’s against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to outlaw teaching and advocacy of anything. It was just a very repressive time.

What happened after you moved to the box plant? Did the FBI still follow you?

When I got the job at Longview Fibre, for the first few weeks, I went to work by different routes and watched for tails. But they caught up with me eventually, the FBI did. After I’d worked there four or five months, the superintendent calls me into his office and asks if I’m a communist and of course I denied it. I had to hold a damn job. Fortunately the superintendent was a nice guy and he had gone to Washington State College at the same time I did and he let me stay. Otherwise, I would have been out on my can. There were a lot of people who got fired for being reds. I was the only lefty there.

One year, some forces within the union red-baited me, so I wasn’t re-elected to the standing committee—I was defeated, badly. I just ignored it and kept going to the meetings and did my best to play a constructive role. The next year, they re-elected me. [After becoming a legislative lobbyist for the union] I had the same thing happen later with the area council of the Western Paper and Pulp Workers. They red-baited me there, too [because] Louise, my wife, had chaired a committee for a candidate who [in 1975] was an open communist running for the Legislature—Elmer Kistler. So my union brothers and sisters asked me about that. They were not happy about it at all. [But] I told them if we had a half-dozen people like Elmer Kistler in the Legislature, my job as lobbyist would be one hell of a lot easier.

Interview with Will Parry, Part II

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Reprinted from Real Change 

Editor’s Note: In 2010 our friend, comrade, and former Retriee Advocate Editor Will Parry (1920-2013) gave a 90th birthday interview to Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis. In Part I, in last month’s issue, Will talked about the life experiences that made him a Communist. This month, he talks about more current issues, the Great Recession and how people are fighting back. More of the interview will appear in following issues of the Retiree Advocate. 

How would you say people are reacting to today’s Great Recession compared to those days? 

My sense is it’s a gathering storm. It’s very early, and similar organizing has to take place, but people are not going to sit around and starve or get kicked out of homes by the millions. They’re just not going to do it …

What signals that gathering storm? 

The formation of very broad coalitions is a good sign. The coalition in this state that advocated for health-care reform had 60 or more organizations that affiliated. They spoke with real power and the same kind of thing was going on in most places in the country and the collective impact was enough to get that bill through. Flawed as it is, it’s historic. And we’ll improve it in the years ahead—I’m sure. We’ve got to … In some ways, that’s what we’re trying to do with the [Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action]: organize people to defend themselves. In our case, one of our core priorities is to defend Social Security, which is again under very grave attack and in danger of being privatized.

Again? How? 

The Obama Administration has set up a commission on deficit reduction and directed it to come with up recommendations to cut the deficit, but the majority of the people appointed to the commission see this as opportunity to eviscerate Social Security. There’s $2.4 trillion in the [Social Security] reserves and Wall Street wants to get its hand on the money. It’s there because workers have paid into the trust fund all these years and it’s there for present and future retirees and Wall Street doesn’t like that. So there’s a real danger they’ll come up with a recommendation to extend the retirement age, to transform the formula which determines benefits so that there are lower benefits—all kinds of things to water down Social Security. They’re after Medicare and Medicaid, too.

(Following Will’s lead we have been succesfull in stopping cuts to these 


Interview with Will Parry, Part I

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Reprinted from Real Change 

Editor’s note: In 2010, former Retiree Advocate editor and tireless working class activist Will Parry (1920-2013) gave a 90th birthday interview to Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis. We will reprint that interview in several parts in this and following issues of the Retiree Advocate. 

“By the time he was in college,” Gillis writes, “Parry firmly believed in the ideal of communism and, with it, that working people, not bankers, know what’s best for the common welfare.

“In his many years as a journalist, labor activist, lobbyist, labor history teacher and advocate for the retired, it’s an ideal Parry has never stopped working toward and did not renounce back in 1947, when the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act demanded that he and other workers sign an anti-communist oath. Nor did his beliefs waver when, a year later, he was summoned to what is now the Seattle Center House to testify before the state version of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He gave the panel a big, fat Fifth Amendment.”

What was it like living through the Great Depression? 

The Depression radicalized my father, who had his own small advertising agency and he, in turn, radicalized me. For example, he took me to hear speakers like William Z. Foster and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, both early-day communist leaders and also activists in the labor movement. Foster organized the first steel strike and Gurly Flynn was involved in the strike of the garment workers that led to the establishment of International Women’s Day. He also took me to hear Woody Guthrie sing and play in the Workers Alliance Hall down in the Skid Road.

What was that worldview? 

I became communist. I had gone to [what was then] Washington State College and spent three years over there [in Pullman] and in my final year I hitchhiked over to Seattle and joined the Young Communist League. I had subscribed to the Daily People’s World, which later became the People’s World, a weekly. I was persuaded by its political line that [communists] were on the right track, so I thought I better get into the action.

Why? What was it that drew you to the Communist Party? 

It was a period of rapid [labor] organization and major strikes. There was a seething foment among working people at that time in response to the impact of the Depression and unemployment. In Seattle, the Unemployed Citizens League set up a virtual city on the Duwamish tide flats—it was a Hooverville. They had a mayor and an informal city government and a sanitation department and a security detail, the whole thing. And no money—there was lots of barter. It was a vast sea of shanties and shacks made out of materials of all kinds. My dad wrote an article on it called the “The Republic of the Penniless” [that appeared] in the Atlantic Monthly. He got a generous check that tided us over through much of the Depression. Nobody was making any money, including him.

Watch for Part II of this interview in coming issues of the Retiree Advocate. 

Will Parry: A Man For All Seasons

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

By Tim Wheeler 

Remembering Will on his Birthday 

In the days before he passed away last May 13, Will Parry was surrounded by people who loved him, Imogene Williams first of all. Will lived with Imogene in her gracious house on Capital Hill. As he failed, Will’s daughter, Naomi, his son, Jon, and his brother Tom came to be with him.

Women and men from all the progressive movements came in a steady stream to tell Will how much they admired him for his decades of unwavering leadership. It included members of Will’s Communist Party Club in Seattle that he attended every month even as his health was failing.

Imogene and the CP Club put on a birthday party for Will last April 21, his 93rd. Family and friends gathered in Imogene’s living room, and Imogene’s daughter Ruth brought in a chocolate cake supplied by Catherine Pottinger, decorated with two glowing candles.

We sang Happy Birthday, and Will’s face, weary and drawn, broke into a radiant smile. It was the same humorous, gentle smile we all knew. At that moment, we all hoped that Will would bounce back and live another 10 years.

What was it about Will Parry that made people love him so? In his youth, Will Parry was the “best and the brightest.” He was well-born, handsome, a track & field star. He graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa. He was a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. He married a lovely, gifted woman, Louise Long, and they had two beautiful children.

Will could have been a millionaire. He could have been a U.S. senator. While he ran for office, winning was always secondary to his principles: “People and Nature Before Profits.”

Early in life, Will took a different path. Maybe he had read that lovely line of Jose Marti we hear today in Guantanamera: “Con los pobres de la tiera/Quiero yo mi suerte echar.” (With the poor people of this earth I wish to share my fate.)

He loved working-class people, sang for them and strumming on his battered guitar, invited them to sing with him. Once at a People’s World barbeque at Genesee Park, Will was leading the crowd in singing “Goodnight Irene.” People were remembering the verses and singing them. Will sang: “Sometimes she wears pajamas/ Sometimes she wears a nightgown/ But when they’re both in the laundry/ Irene is the talk of the town.” The crowd erupted in laughter and applause and Will himself was laughing and strumming his guitar. His handsome face radiated so much joy. He was drawing that joy from the crowd. His connection with the people, especially people fighting the good fight, was the source of his strength and eternal optimism.

Will devoutly believed that masses of working people—women and men, African American, Latino, Asian Pacific, Native American Indian, and white— will determine the destiny of our nation and the world. Ultimately, he believed that the internal contradictions of capitalism would lead the people to opt for a system of maximum economic and political democracy— socialism.

Will himself played a huge role in helping organize those coalitions. He understood that those movements are invincible if they are fully united and mobilized.

Will understood the deadly dangers posed by Karl Rove and the Koch Brother billionaires. Utilizing their age-old trusty weapons — racism, sexism, and homophobia — they would drive wedges into that movement.

That is why Will was such a determined foe of racism. He plunged into the movement to rescue the Central Area Senior Center when it faced bankruptcy. Working together with Thurston Muskelly, they raised $131,000 to fund the center that serves the mostly African American community. Will was a strong supporter of Mothers for Police Accountability and its leader, the Rev. Harriett Walden, which fights to end police brutality in Seattle.

Will and Louise were targets of another wedge issue used by the ultra-right to divide and weaken the movement for progressive change: anti-communism. Will was hounded and harassed by the FBI, blacklisted from every well-paying job. His refusal to buckle to the fear and intimidation, his defense of his beliefs and his staunch upholding of the Bill of Rights is another reason Will Parry was embraced as a hero of the people’s movement.

Will was a strategic thinker. He put his energy and brainpower where he thought it mattered most. When he reached retirement age, he gave all his energy to organizing the senior citizen movement. He knew that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were the crown jewels in a century of struggle by the working class and its allies. Driven by profit-greed, the corporate ultra-right poured out lies about “Social Security going broke” and how the answer was private accounts in the Wall Street banks. A brilliant word craftsman, Will exposed the thieves and mobilized PSARA and the people to fight back.

In the June edition of the Retiree Advocate, Robby Stern, president of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA) wrote a tribute to Will calling him “the guiding spirit of PSARA.”

Stern added, “In his 90s, Will developed a growing urgency to address the threat of climate change and the damage being done by the fossil fuel industry.”

Stern cited Will’s last major article that appeared under the headline, “To Save Planet Earth, Handcuff the Fossil Fuel Industry.” The lead sentence of the article reads, “This article is for my grandchildren. And yours. And everybody’s around all the world. I want them to live out their lives on a vibrant, living planet.”

We did not know it at the time, but Will was writing his own epitaph. We hear you, Will. We will try to live our lives the way you lived yours.

Tim Wheeler, a PSARA member, is a former editor of People’s World.

Pete, Will, and the Arc of Life

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

By Robby Stern 

The arc of life has been on my mind lately. Turning 70 this month has led me to think about youth and the aging process. I have been thinking about how Pete Seeger was a presence from my early years, and how the friendship and influence of Will Parry has impacted my middle and senior years.

I was first exposed to Pete Seeger by my immigrant parents who had a copy of the Weavers album in their record collection. My age was in the single digits when I first heard “Irene Goodnight” and other folk songs on that album. I knew nothing about the political views of the singers and I frankly do not know if my parents knew anything about their political perspective. I do know we loved the music.

I remember vividly the fear my parents, and particularly my father, felt during the McCarthy era. Both were constantly fearful as a result of their experience in Nazi Germany. While it was never discussed with me, I believe that the McCarthy era had too many parallels to their early experiences in Germany before my Dad was taken to a slave labor camp. Pete and Will were victims of this terrible, repressive time in our country.

I did not hear Pete Seeger’s music, other than that Weavers record, until I left the place of my birth, Charlotte, N.C., and entered Syracuse University in 1961 at age 17. At the time, I did not know the connection between the disappearance of Pete from television and radio and the McCarthy era witch hunts.

Upon entering college at Syracuse, I became more aware of the fundamental justice of the civil rights movement. I was particularly impacted when attending a meeting with several of the Freedom Riders and hearing the story of their beatings and close encounters with death. Folk music and freedom songs were thoroughly integrated into the emerging movements for fundamental change. Pete Seeger was one of the voices heard frequently as we struggled to define what needed to be done and what each of us individually was willing to do and to risk.

The arc of my life had changed dramatically as more and more I viewed myself as an activist trying to correct the ills of our country. Music and singing was an integral part of our picket lines and marches. I had not yet gone to jail during the early to mid ’60s, but I heard and read about brave people, young and old, singing songs before they put themselves in harm’s way or when they were in jail together. Pete Seeger, the Freedom Singers, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie and more filled our souls with optimism, determination and spirit.

I first had the opportunity to see Pete sing in the HUB ballroom at UW in the latter part of the ’60s when opposition to the war in Vietnam was growing stronger. He was traveling to college campuses across the country with his message of resistance and determination. We sang with him and we listened attentively as he passionately and angrily insisted we have to “stop this damn war.” I was moved by his commitment and his undying belief that we could stop the powerful U.S. government if we had the determination and the will to keep fighting.

From that time forward, I probably saw Pete in person two or three times and on television a number of times. His songs and his music became part of my penchant for singing during the course of my life. Pete had a deep commitment to justice for working people and the labor movement. My trajectory from the civil rights, anti-war and anti-imperialist movement of the ‘60s and ’70s into activism in the labor movement followed the connections that Pete had already made with his music, guided by his political commitments. He was an activist and a cultural worker, and whenever I encountered his music, energy and caring, it gave me greater strength to carry on.

Pete was ahead of me in age, understanding of the world, comprehension of what needed to be done and knowledge of how difficult a challenge we faced. So, it is no surprise that he understood the need to confront the issue of environmental sustainability way before I did. His work in cleaning up the Hudson River and inspiring tens of thousands of people to become active for the survival of our planet stands out as a remarkable achievement.

Will Parry was the moving force behind PSARA becoming active in the fight for environmental sustainability. He passionately advocated for PSARA involvement as a fundamental responsibility to the generations behind us. He led us in calling for opposition to the coal terminals and the coal trains while insisting that our role was to fight for good union family-wage jobs as part of transitioning from fossil fuels to other sources of energy.

I was mightily influenced by Pete and by Will to integrate these two critical issues: the struggle for environmental sustainability and the fight for social and economic justice.

Turning 70, I confront having a lot less time left than what is already behind me. Pete and Will exemplified what it means to engage in a life-long fight for a decent society and a caring world as part of the very core of our individual existence. I will try to emulate them. Their presence in the arc of my life has been a blessing.

A Life Well Lived

Friday, May 31st, 2013

By Robby Stern 

Will Parry died peacefully inn the home of his beloved friend Imogene Williams on Monday afternoon, May 13. Tom Parry, Will’s brother and close friend was by his side as he expired.

Ironically, Will died on the same day as his good friend, Larry Kenney, former president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The two men shared a passion for worker justice and baseball. Will and Larry had frequently worked together including a time when Will was President of PSARA and Larry was the Treasurer.

Will had been living with Imogene for several years and they experienced a beautiful friendship, including lots of opportunities to lovingly and in good humor give each other a hard time. When Will became seriously ill in December, Imogene was by his side, caring for him, advocating for him and believing in his ability to once again bounce back like he had done in the past. With the assistance of Imogene’s family, Jon Parry, Will’s wonderful son, other volunteers, and thought- ful, capable hospice nurses, Will was treated with the care, love and affection he so deserved.

Will wanted to keep going. He had other stories he wanted to write and more counsel he wanted to provide. He was the guiding spirit of PSARA.

In his 90s, Will developed a growing urgency to address the threat of climate change and the damage being done by the fossil fuel industry. In December 2012, Will wrote the article “To Save Planet Earth, Handcuff the Fossil Fuel Industry.” The first sentence in the article read, “This article is for my grandchildren. And yours. And everybody’s all around the world. I want them – all of them – to live out their lives on a vibrant, living planet.”

Kristen Beifus, co-chair of PSARA’s Environmental Committee wrote on hearing of Will’s death, ”It was a deep honor that Will spent some of his last moments steward- ing the PSARA Environmental Committee. We continue in his spirit of generosity and unrelenting hope.”

Tom Lux, co-chair of PSARA’s Environmental Committee and Government Relations Committee wrote: “I am so glad I was able to meet with Will a week before he died and share ideas with him. Even in his weakened state his thought process and resolve was clear. Unfortunately, even though I have been in Seattle over thirty years, I really didn’t get to know Will until a few years ago. I appreciate the time I was able to spend with him, his insight and humor. Will is a working class hero and I, as all of you, will miss him.”

Will’s life has been a history lesson in the struggle of the working class for economic and social justice in our country and in our world. From Will’s early days, his dad, a small businessman whose business failed during the Great Depression, exposed him to the thinking of communist and other progressive working class leaders. Will’s life experience and the devastation he saw around him were an object lesson for him on why he must get involved. He joined the Communist Party. He believed they had the most coherent analysis of what needed to be done to oppose the corporate robber barons of U.S. capitalism.

His incredible skills as a journalist soon shined through. He wrote for The New World and the People’s World until the terrible dark days of the McCarthy era deprived him of his ability to make an income to help support his family, his beloved wife, Louise, and his two children, Naomi and Jon.

Living during that time was really scary. Naomi recounted the time Will got angry with her as a young child because she had opened a sample food package that had come in the mail. Will feared, not without reason, that the package could be a threat to the family he loved. The FBI was a regular presence in their lives and used all the tools they had to try and intimidate Will and Louise and scare the family.

“Through my tears of sadness, I am savoring the memories of the hours spent with Will During some moments of quiet conversation, I asked Will if he had any messages for the PSARA Board. He always asked about the board’s plans, about the mayor’s standing, the Environmental Committee and the Mariners. In his usual thoughtful manner, Will said he would like to thank the board members and others for their ‘many courtesies’ and noted, especially, his gratitude for the leadership and commitment of the Environmental Committee. What a blessing it has been to know Will.” Bonny Oborn, Executive Board member and one of the volunteers who cared for Will.

In 1956, when he was no longer able to make a living as a leftist journalist, Will went to work for Longview Fibre and soon became a deeply respected leader of Local 817 of the Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers (AWPPW). He experienced some red baiting, but Will’s humble and determined commitment to working class justice won over the union members.

He was elected to various union offices including being elected as the first paid lobbyist for the union. As lobbyist, he wrote weekly reports in his superla- tive prose educating his brothers and sisters. He went back to work in the factory when the legislative sessions were completed. He was respected and admired by the rank and file members as well as the leadership of the union.

Will also earned a reputation in Olympia as a thoroughly prepared, humble but articulate and forceful advocate for his union and the entire working class. When I was a lobbyist in Olympia I frequently heard Will de- scribed as a man of honor and integrity.

“Will Parry ‘presente.’ He’s in all the good work we do and have done and in the good fights to come. We’ll miss him every day, but we’ll also see him every day in all our acts of justice and solidarity.” Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer, Washington State Labor Council

After Will retired from the box factory, he worked with the WA State Labor Council on various mobilization proj- ects, taught part time in the Labor Rela- tions program at Shoreline Community College and became the editor of the monthly newsletter of the Washington Federation of Teachers. He continued to inspire new generations of workers with the scope of his knowledge, his willingness to address issues of racial justice, educational opportunity and the necessity to treat the teachers of our community with respect.

“I am so devastated that Will passed away. It seemed not so long ago that he sat across from me at PSARA meetings, standing with him at several PSARA di- rect action events, or at Seattle Council meetings. I will miss him very much and hope I can emulate his commitment and dedication to peace and social justice issues. Thank you for having me as a PSARA member and introducing me to Will and for that I will be eternally grateful.” Frank Irigon. PSARA Executive Board member, Chair of PSARA’s Diversity Committee and community leader in the Asian Pacific Islander Com- munity.

After leaving WA Federation of Teachers, Will became active with the Puget Sound Council of Senior Citizens (PSCSC). He was Assistant Editor under Max Roffman until Max was no longer able to carry on. Will became Editor in 1994 and President for the first time

in 2000. He served for one year and was reelected as President of PSARA in 2002. He led PSARA as both Editor and President until he simply was no longer physically able to carry on in both roles. In December, 2008 he stepped down to serve as full time Editor.

In 2001, with the demise of the National Council of Senior Citizens, Will led the PSCSC as it became the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, a chartered affiliate of the National Alliance for Retired Americans. When PSARA was told that we could no longer use the Alliance for Retired Ameri- cans name and logo, Will came up with the name Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.

Will and Al Peppard visited me in my office at the Washington State Labor Council in 2007. They told me that when I retired they hoped I would help them lead PSARA. I genuinely looked forward to working with Will and the other PSARA members. I retired in April of 2008 and was elected President of PSARA in December of 2009.

Will was my friend, my political mentor, my editor and my advisor.

Executive Board member and chair of our Education Committee , Mark McDermott, expressed my feelings as well as his, “My heart is so heavy at the passing of one of my heroes. Our world was made better by his presence and lessened by his passing. I will draw inspiration from Will’s life and spirit.”

Phyllis Baker served for several years as Will’s proof reader for The Retiree Advocate. Here is what she wrote upon hearing of Will’s death: “I think one good way to honor Will is to ‘pass it on’ to the next generation. Ask our members to tell their grown children about the Retiree Advocate and how important it is and about Will himself and suggest their children subscribe as a memorial to Will. I feel so lucky to have known him.” 

A memorial for Will Parry is planned for Saturday, June 29, 2-5 p.m. in Hall 1 of the Seattle Labor Temple, 2800 First Avenue.

Donations in Will’s name may be made to PSARA at 2800 1st Ave. #262, Seattle, WA, 98121, to continue his work. 

Remembering Will

Friday, May 31st, 2013

By Minnie Caruso, Trade Printery 

“Will.” Such a perfect name. Will Parry had so much will – the will to fight for social justice and the will to continue working for that even as the end of his life was near. But it seemed his abiding passion was his will to write.

I knew Will for some years before I began working with him on The Advocate newsletter. He always seemed so young for his years, coming into the print shop after a jog, and this was when he was in his seventies! He always had a smile and often a joke.

One of the pleasures of my working life was working with Will on The Advocate. For a number of years he WAS The Advocate, spending countless hours researching and writing most of the articles. I remember one day when we were discussing the layout he asked me with a twinkle in his eye, if I knew the identity of Rap Lewis. It turned out to be Will himself. He made up a pseudonym using some of the letters in his own name. It was his private joke. Rap wrote some fine articles over the years.

The best way to get to know someone is to work with him. Will had a kind and gentle manner and worked in a way I would call “soft precision.” He knew what he wanted but was never heavy-handed. He was a meticulous writer and editor, making every sentence clear, and often changing a word or sentence at the last minute. Equally concerned about layout, he tried to make each page stand on its own visually. He cared about everything, from the quality of a photo to the placement of a comma. All of that caring resulted in a quality newsletter that I know he was proud of and that kept him going into his 90’s!

It was early this year that producing the newsletter became too much and he stepped down as editor. Our years of collaboration came to an end. I was left with the gift of knowing a wonderful person who came to be a friend, one of his many. Will’s passing has left a hole in my heart.

There is so much to say about Will Parry and it will be said. His work, his respect for his fellow man and his hu- manity will be his legacy. He really was a working class hero.

He set the grassroots ablaze with song

Friday, May 31st, 2013

By Will Parry – Reprinted from The Retiree Advocate, August, 2007

My guitar work is less than distinguished, and my voice is nothing special. But if I do say so, I’m a pretty darn good song leader. And during the week this Retiree Advocate hits your mailbox, I’ll be leading the singing around the campfire for about the fiftieth consecutive year at Family Camp on Lake Wenatchee.

I learned how to lead group singing from a master: Pete Seeger. Me and about a million other guitar, banjo, mandolin, autoharp, accordion, harmonica and ukulele players.

At Family Camp we sing children’s songs, union songs, spirituals, patriotic songs, love songs, funny songs, sad songs. All through the last half century, Family Campers have learned these songs as children, sung them again as teenagers, again as mothers and fathers, and now some are singing them as grandparents.

We learned many of these songs from Pete Seeger. But Pete – still going strong in his 88th year – taught us more than words and tunes. He taught us the fun, the excitement, the pleasure, the satisfaction of coming together, across the generations and the genders, in song.

Pete Seeger has been singing for peace, justice, the union cause, and the happiness of boys and girls ever since his youth in the Great Depression. In 1950, with Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman, Pete launched the Weavers. Their spirited music-making did much to trigger the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s. Pete’s lively banjo and high-pitched tenor have brought people alive on picket lines and in churches, in summer camps and class- rooms, in union halls and living rooms –just about any venue you can think of.

And not just in our country. Acting on the sound theory that the whole world wants to sing, Pete has embraced the folk traditions of every continent.

One example among many: In Moscow, and again in Tokyo, thousands sang right along with Pete on “Wimoweh” and other African folk treasures.

This year, thousands of Pete’s fans from many countries are signing peti- tions asking that his lifelong contributions be recognized by awarding him the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. The spon- sors are asking the American Friends Service Committee, which won the Nobel peace award in 1947, to formally submit Pete’s name.

In the depths of the Cold War, Pete was hauled before the House UnAmeri- can Activities Committee. Despite the threat of prison, he refused the com- mittee’s demand that he “name names,” citing the First Amendment right of free speech. Accused of singing on behalf of subversive causes, Pete offered to sing some of his songs for the commit- tee. No dice.

Today that execrable committee has been consigned to its rightful place in the damp cellar of history, while the folksinger it sought to vilify is beloved the world over.

As he should be. No other human being has done as much as Pete Seeger to set the grassroots ablaze with song. We’re rooting for him to be awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Words to think about…

Friday, May 31st, 2013

“Our nation was born in one revolution against tyranny. Nothing written in the stars rules out another.”

Will Parry, The Retiree Advocate, July 2008