Larry Parry, 97, of Baldwinsville, passed away May 5. He was one of Central New York's last remaining Pearl Harbor survivors. “He couldn’t get through the story without being swept away with emotion,” said Susan Acker, Parry's daughter. (Photo courtesy of The Greatest Generations Foundation)
Baldwinsville recently lost a piece of living history with the passing of Pearl Harbor survivor Larry Parry. One of the last surviving Pearl Harbor veterans in the Central New York area, Parry died May 5 at his daughter’s home in Baldwinsville. He was 97.
According to his daughter, Susan Acker, Parry often shared his story of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Parry visited the Pearl Harbor memorial twice — in 2014 and 2016 — and spoke to schoolchildren about his experience.
“Anybody who would listen, he would tell about Pearl Harbor,” Acker said. “He couldn’t get through the story without being swept away with emotion.”
Parry was stationed on Honolulu Harbor in Oahu as an Army motor mechanic, and he was playing football with some friends and his brother, Ernie, when the Japanese planes passed overhead. The soldiers waved, not yet having realized they were enemy planes. Then the pilots unleashed their bombs and bullets.
“You really couldn’t believe what you were seeing,” Parry told the Messenger in 2014. “The runways were all bombed, the hangars were afire, the planes were afire, the cars were afire, and every one of our battleships was tipped over.”
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178. It damaged all eight of the United States’ battleships and completely destroyed the USS Arizona — but it didn’t destroy the Pacific fleet as the Japanese had intended. The attack was the catalyst for the U.S. entry into World War II.
“My grandmother was mopping the floor when she heard [about the attack], and she just dropped the mop,” Acker said. “She had two sons over there.”
The Greatest Generations Foundation sponsored Parry’s two trips to Pearl Harbor, which kept the veterans busy with visits to memorials and military operations, school question-and-answer sessions and ceremonies to commemorate the attack.
TGGT also sponsored a visit to the White House this past December for Parry and six of his fellow Pearl Harbor vets. President Donald Trump signed a proclamation for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day” and commended the men’s efforts during the war.
“Outnumbered and outgunned, they did not hesitate,” Trump said. “Lawrence Parry carried ammunition to the gunners. In thinking about the lessons of Pearl Harbor, Larry said he hopes ‘we can build up the military again.’”
According to TGGT, Parry said of the meeting, “Why would the President have time to meet me?”
While many knew Parry for his wartime experience, Acker said she remembers her father as a great dad with a kind, generous spirit who made friends wherever he went and adored his home on Connors Road.
“He had this radiance about him,” Acker said.
Since her father’s passing, Acker said their family has received an outpouring of emails, cards and calls from students, fellow veterans and neighbors who wanted to share stories of how Parry touched their lives.
“One neighbor on East Sorrell Hill Road — I don’t know them and I’m not sure my father did either — said, ‘We always drove by the flagpole and saw the marigolds he had planted there,’” Acker said. The neighbors wanted to know if they could plant marigolds around Parry’s flagpole this spring.
“He lived a simple life, just a little house on Connors Road,” she said. “He’d use his walker and walk up to the top of the hill and back down again. He loved his hummingbird garden and being in the sun.”
Earlier this year, Parry moved into Acker’s home in the village of Baldwinsville.
“It was just so great to have him here. He’d go out in the porch and have his coffee and sun himself,” she said.
Even at 97, the former Army mechanic was mastering the latest technology. Acker said she tried to explain Alexa, Amazon’s talking virtual assistant, to Parry. Then, early one morning, she heard him chatting with the device.
“Alexa, what’s the weather? Alexa, how did the Red Sox do last night? Alexa, play some swing music,” Parry would say.
“Every morning, we’d have coffee to Benny Goodman,” Acker recalled, adding that Parry would also thank Alexa for her help.
Before his death, Parry and his family had been preparing for a trip to Albany this week. Sen. John DeFrancisco nominated Parry for induction into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
“He was really excited about that, so too bad he’s not going to be here,” Acker said.
Acker said the best way to honor her father’s legacy is to “respect the military, be aware of their history and be prepared for the defense in this country.”
“Keep the story alive because pretty soon there won’t be any survivors,” she said.
In addition to his daughter, Susan Acker (and her husband Robert), Larry Parry is survived by three grandsons, Roger Acker (Katherine), Randall Acker (Valerie), Jonathan Parry (Jessica); a granddaughter, Katherine Parry; and six great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Virginia in 2010, and his son, Frederick, this past January.
Calling hours were held May 12 at Gates Funeral Home. A service with military honors will be held at noon Saturday, May 19, around Parry’s treasured flagpole at his home on Connors Road in Van Buren. A reception will follow.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.