Born in 1922, Herb Parsons of Marble Falls celebrates his 100th birthday on Sept. 1, 2022. Staff photo by Nathan Bush
Marble Falls resident Herb Parsons celebrates his 100th birthday at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, in Parish Hall at Trinity Episcopal Church, 909 Avenue D in Marble Falls. The party is open to the public.
From traversing through wartime Asia in the 1940s during World War II to his days as a trumpeter for the Shriners Club Shrine Band, Parsons has lived life to the fullest for nearly a century.
Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Parsons started his career at Greyhound Bus Line in 1940. To avoid being drafted and to better control where he was stationed, Parsons enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1942.
“When I went to enlist, I told (the recruiter) I had an interest in electricity, so I joined the Signal Corps,” Parsons said.
Little did Parsons know that he had been misled by the recruiter on which branch he had actually joined.
“I went through Fort Bliss in El Paso and down to Tampa, Florida, to Drew Field,” he said “That’s when I found out I was assigned to the Air Force. I never saw the Signal Corps people.”
While stationed at Drew Field, Parsons met a his future wife, Mildred, on the beach in Clearwater, Florida. They quickly became inseparable, and Parsons used his three-day passes to visit her.
“Finally, we decided to get married,” he said. “I got another three-day pass and got married.”
Shortly after, Parsons received a transfer order to train in Chicago for four months to become an air traffic controller. The recently married Parsons didn’t want to leave Mildred, so he asked his commanding officer if he could forgo the training.
“I wasn’t very fond of the idea of leaving my wife,” he said. “I explained to my captain that I’d hate to leave her here.”
His commanding officer granted his wish and named Parsons the company clerk of the 720th Signal Aircraft Warning Unit. Once the air traffic controllers returned from their four months in Chicago, Parsons was transferred to the Pacific, stationed in the CBI Theater, which included the countries of China, Burma (modern-day Myanmar), and India.
Before making it there, however, the unit was forced to stay in Melbourne, Australia, because of enemy submarines in the area. Once the coast was clear, the 720th Signal Aircraft Warning Unit was transferred to Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in India.
The group boarded a train for Calcutta, India, to load equipment and gliders to their final destination: Kunming, China. After departing to Calcutta, a severe storm destroyed the gliders, forcing Parsons’ unit to drive hundreds of miles through rough, mountainous terrain for the rest of the journey.
After the Germans surrendered in 1945, the War Department announced a point system for demobilization. Soldiers were given one point for each month of service, an additional point for each month of overseas service, and five points for each battle star or decoration earned. Soldiers who earned 85 points were demobilized and transported back to the United States.
According to military records, Parsons needed five more points before he could return. After working at a general’s office in Shanghai, he realized his unit had earned an additional Bronze Star of which he was unaware.
“I was looking through the award book one day, and, all the sudden, I see two Bronze Stars for our company,” Parsons said. “I didn’t know about the second one. Five points.”
Parsons immediately met with his commanding officer and presented him with the findings. It didn’t take much convincing before the commanding officer sent him on a ship back to the United States.
Boarding the first troop ship he could find, Parsons went back across the Pacific to Fort Lewis, an Army base about 9 miles south of Tacoma, Washington. He then boarded a train to Atlanta and was reunited with Mildred.
Parsons and his wife would later move to his native state of New Mexico, where he would work as an accountant for Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque for 28 years. During that time, Mildred and Herb would have two daughters, Georgia and Melissa.
An avid philanthropist, Parsons has been a member of the Freemasons and Shriners Club for 65 years. Through his work with the two groups, Parsons has donated thousands of dollars to children in need.
Upon retirement, the Parsons traveled North America, leading car caravans with up to 125 cars carrying hundreds of Shriners. Mildred has since died.
His positive attitude is something that makes him special, his daughter Georgia Parsons told DailyTrib.com.
“He’s a very positive, outgoing person,” she said. “He treats everyone with respect.”