Valley native Mona Parsons remembered during Heritage Day
The little-known story of an unlikely war hero was certainly told leading up to Heritage Day.
Every seat in the 124-seat auditorium at the Irving Centre at Acadia University was occupied Feb. 17 when biographer Andria Hill-lehr spoke about Mona Parsons, this year’s Heritage Day honoree.
Parsons was born in Middleton in 1901, and at the age of 10, moved to Wolfville. Her life took her around the world - after graduating from Acadia Ladies’ Seminary, Parsons headed off to New York, where she earned her a spot as one of the Ziegfeld Follies.
A few years later, she was introduced to Willem Leonhardt, the Dutch millionaire she would later marry. The couple moved to Holland and, for two years, enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle of parties, vacations and luxury.
On her second wedding anniversary, the Germans invaded Poland, and Parsons stood up for what she believed was right Parsons and her husband quietly joined the Dutch Resistance, helping allied airman evade capture in a secret closet hiding spot behind Parsons’ shoes.
Parsons was eventually taken into custody and sentenced to death, but her dignity in facing the tribunal curried favour and her life was spared. She was sentenced to life in a labour camp, where she resided for four years, eventually escaping when the labour camp was bombed.
‘Not willing to compromise’
Provincial culture and heritage minister Leo Glavine explained how Heritage Day is recognizing, honouring and bringing back to life people who made significant contributions to our province, like that of Parsons.
He spoke of Parsons’ “willpower and dedication to making life better for other human beings, for the common good. She was one of those people whose lives can be threatened, but they are not willing to compromise who they are. She could have left (the Netherlands) before WWII started, but she didn’t.”
Glavine paid tribute to Hilllehr as well, saying her dogged determination to share the story of Parsons’ heroism is “allowing us to celebrate Mona’s life a lot more.” See COMPLETELY, A3