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Mae Parry was a living legend

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People who met Mae Timbimboo Parry never forgot her. The sad thing is most Utahns never got the chance to meet her.

Parry died last week at age 87. As the consensus matriarch of Northwestern Band of Shoshones in the state, she had a knack — some would say a genius — for speaking heart-to-heart to people at every level, from great leaders to grandchildren. Whether she was attending a pow-wow where fancy dancers displayed the proud red and blue Shoshone colors, or attending a White House function as a representative of Indian Tribal Affairs, she brought authenticity and humanity to every occasion. She was at home wherever she went and made others feel the same.

Parry was one of the first winners of the Utah Women's Achievement Award, a member of the Utah Indian Cooperative Council and an honorary Utah Mother of the Year. She lobbied the state to pass the Native American Graves Protection Act. But her lasting contributions were more subtle and behind the scenes.

A dedicated historian, Parry made sure that important dates and events in her tribe were recorded for future generations. It was her determination that eventually got the name Battle of Bear River changed to Bear River Massacre. Through her reading and her conversations with others, she could bring the events of that tragic day alive in the mind of listeners — from Chief Sagwich riding back and forth on his white stallion, to the mothers hiding beneath the river bank being forced to let their babies drift away so their cries would not attract the blood-thirsty soldiers.

Years later, also in the Bear River, the entire Shoshone Band was baptized into the LDS Church. Parry was fond of saying everyone joined except one man, who was afraid of the water. After he passed away it was, of course, Mae Parry who made sure his posthumous LDS baptism was taken care of.

It was that attention to detail along with her wonderful ability to see the big picture that made her a living treasure while she was here and a legend to remember now that she has passed on.