American Legion announces Grand Marshal of 2024 Memorial Day Parade

American Legion announces Grand Marshal of 2024 Memorial Day Parade

Marie Sartor Pawelek, resident centenarian and WWII veteran, will serve as Grand Marshal of the 2024 Memorial Day Parade.  She will be accompanied by her son Michael, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. 

Born in Eveleth, Minnesota, Ms. Pawelek graduated from high school in 1942 and was a locally known blues singer.  She attended St. Scholastica College in Duluth for a year before joining the Women's Army Corps.  She was sent to Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso, Texas for training as a medic, then assigned to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.  She worked with amputees, remembering that there was a “factory” in the basement of the hospital that made prosthetics.

At Walter Reed, the staff learned of her music background and modified her job description to work with shell-shocked (now known as PTSD) patients using music therapy. 

She was discharged as a Corporal in 1945, using the GI Bill to study at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago.  Ms. Pawelek moved to Park Ridge in 1954 with her family. 

Michael Pawelek served in the Marine Corps for three years including a tour in Vietnam.  He was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant and moved to California, using the GI Bill, to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from California State University in Los Angeles.  Now retired, Michael Pawelek lives in Elmhurst. 

In 2015 Ms. Pawelek boarded an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., the only woman on the plane.  She and her son Michael are both Honor Flight Volunteers and send birthday cards to veterans all over the country.

Ms. Pawelek is delighted to be invited to be Grand Marshal of Park Ridge’s Memorial Day Parade saying, “This is the greatest honor a vet can have!”

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