DARIEN, Conn. --- Pat Parlette of Darien says her favorite place is wherever she is at the moment. A lot of that time is spent at Darien Thrift Shop, where the 89-year-old volunteers and originally helped her launch a long career as registered nurse.
“I’m just saying thanks,’’ Parlette said. “Considering what they’ve done for me, it’s the least I can do for them.”
Parlette’s history with the Darien Community Association Thrift Shop dates back to 1943, when she won their scholarship as a senior at Darien High School. She joined the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps that year and graduated as a nurse from Greenwich Hospital in 1946. For part of her training, she was a student nurse at Yale where she learned special care for polio victims living in iron lungs. After graduation, she went to Tripler Military Hospital in Hawaii to care for polio patients.
She got a job with Holland America, and later spent 38 years with Seaboard Airlines. When Pat was hired by Seaboard, the military required the presence of a Registered Nurse on passenger flights.
“When I got to Hawaii, there was a plea for polio nurses,’’ Parlette said. "I had wonderful training at Yale. That changed my life. Darien was always the place where I had my roots, and when I came back, I was informed about the job with Seaboard. I fell into this wonderful 40 year career.”
Parlette said she enjoyed every moment of her career. “I never felt I did a day’s work, so how could I retire?’’ she said. She also said she would not have any reservations about treating patients today.
“It never entered my mind,’’ Parlette said when asked if she considered another career. “We were aware that the world was full of bacteria. We took care of ourselves. I had confidence in my teachers. We were cautious, but that was second nature. It remains so today. Safety and sanitary conditions are paramount. Let’s stick to common sense.”
Besides her work at the Thrift Shop, Parlette also enjoys traveling. She has visited China, Germany, Brazil, Jordan, Egypt, Vietnam and Alaska. She journeyed to Alaska on Holland America, where she was honored by crew for her work on the same cruise line 64 years earlier. “I had my documents from 64 years ago,’’ Parlette said. “Most of the crew hadn’t even been born then.”
Parlette even went zip-lining in Alaska. It is an extension of the way she has lived her entire life, without fear or regret. She lives in the same home she grew up in Darien with her mother and brothers. Her mother, Mary, was a widow when Pat was just 7-years old.
Parlette was also the first female drum major at Darien High School, and remembers marching in the Memorial Day parade in near 100-degree heat. “They wanted me to wear a skirt, and I said I’m not walking down the middle of Post Road in a skirt,’’ she said. “The top of the pants came up to my neck. I had the shortest suspenders in history.”
Parlette said she “does whatever needs to be done” at the Thrift Shop, from changing light bulbs to customer service. She has worked there steadily for the past 25 years.
“I feel I’m the wealthiest girl on earth,’’ Parlette said. “I have a very simple life. It’s elegant simplicity. I feel very fortunate. The reason I'm at the Thrift Shop is to express the gratitude for what was done for me."