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May 20, 2009 9:35 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Veteran will serve as first female grand marshal in Hampton Bays Memorial Day parade

May 20, 2009 9:35 AM

In her 93 years, Marilouise Kelly has accumulated enough experiences to fill a novel.

She served as a nurse in the U.S. Army during World War II. She won $3,200 on the 1950s game show “Two for the Money.” She is a professor emeritus at Nassau Community College. She gave birth to seven children and now has five grandchildren and one great-grandchild; a sixth grandchild was killed on September 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center attacks.

And now Ms. Kelly can add being named grand marshal of the annual Hampton Bays Memorial Day Parade—which steps off at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 25, near the American Legion Hall on Ponguogue Avenue—to her tome.

Ms. Kelly, who is a member of the Hand-Aldrich American Legion Hall Post 924 in Hampton Bays, is the first female grand marshal in the parade’s history, which spans more than two decades.

But the truth is that the surprisingly spry nonagenarian has no desire to write a memoir. “I haven’t the time to write a book,” said Ms. Kelly, who has lived full-time in Hampton Bays since 1998.

That is because Ms. Kelly is too busy dividing her time between the Southampton Town Senior Center on Ponquogue Avenue, attending sessions at the Center for Creative Retirement at Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus, and visiting with friends and family.

Despite her busy schedule, Ms. Kelly agreed to an interview earlier this week and recalled what it was like to serve her country nearly 65 years ago. “There’s a lot I’d like to remember, and a lot I’d like to forget,” she said.

In 1943, after graduating from nursing school, Ms. Kelly enlisted in the U.S. Army and was shipped out to England. She left her hometown of Queens and said goodbye to Eugene Kelly, the man who she would later spend the rest of her life with. “I said, ‘See you after the war,’” she recalled.

Within months of arriving at a hospital in London, Ms. Kelly said she and the other nurses were bombarded with soldiers who were injured on June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day.

“They just kept coming in,” she said, adding that the number of injuries from the Normandy invasion paled in comparison to the Battle of the Bulge, the last major offense launched by Germany in December 1944 and January 1945. Her younger brother, Robert Gilbert, was killed in the offensive.

Prior to the Battle of the Bulge, Ms. Kelly said she was briefly reunited with her younger brother, whom she called Bobby, in England. They met on Thanksgiving Day in 1944 and Ms. Kelly said she can still recall the memory of her brother walking along the train station platform while her train departed for London.

It was the last time she ever saw him. Mr. Gilbert was killed in the battle and is buried in a cemetery in Belgium. “He wanted to see action, and he saw it,” his sister said.

Ms. Kelly finally left London after World War II and set sail for New York City in May 1945. Although those aboard were in high spirits when the ship left England, she said the mood changed as the soldiers neared home.

“As we got closer to New York, everybody got very down,” she said. Ms. Kelly and the other women aboard the ship tried to cheer up the men, many of whom were afraid that their wives and girlfriends would leave them upon their return.

But Ms. Kelly and her better half did not share those worries. Mr. Kelly, who was serving in Okinawa, Japan, returned home a few months later. They were married in April 1946.

After returning to the states, Ms. Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in education and eventually a master’s degree in nursing education from Hunter College, all while raising her seven children. She was an assistant professor at Nassau Community College until she retired in 1983.

In 1955, Ms. Kelly said she used her wit to win $3,200 in a game show called “Two for the Money.” Her family used the money to make a down payment on a summer cottage in Hampton Bays. They made the cottage their permanent home in 1998. Mr. Kelly died in 2001.

In the years since her husband’s passing, Ms. Kelly has donated her time to various organizations, including the Hand-Aldrich American Legion Hall Post 924, which organizes the hamlet’s annual Memorial Day Parade. Nick Lombardi, who serves as the post’s adjutant, said Ms. Kelly will be the first female grand marshal in the parade’s history.

“She’s very helpful in everything we do,” Mr. Lombardi said. “I felt we owe her the privilege.”

Ms. Kelly said she is honored that the American Legion selected her for the honor. “I congratulate them on choosing a woman,” she said.

She added that she is looking forward to leading marchers north on Ponquogue Avenue, and west on Montauk Highway on Monday morning. A ceremony will follow at Good Ground Cemetery.

Even though she is more active than some women half her age, Ms. Kelly said she has no intention of slowing down any time soon. “I hope to spend my 100th birthday on the Queen Mary [2],” she said.

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Congradulations Mrs. Kellyyou should have been honored years ago and many times since then..
By typical (63), southampton on May 21, 09 8:33 PM