New statue to honour Nova Scotia woman who hid Allied airmen from Nazis

Mona Parsons grew up in Nova Scotia but was living in the Netherlands during the Second World War with her Dutch husband when she was caught by Nazi forces hiding Allied airmen in her house outside Amsterdam.

Mona Parsons won't be buried among the pages of history like other female war heroes, says author

Mona Parsons grew up in Wolfville but was living with her Dutch husband in the Netherlands at the outbreak of the Second World War. (Submitted by Andria Hill-Lehr)

A new statue will soon be erected in Wolfville, N.S., to honour a war hero who never carried a gun and never wore a uniform.

Mona Parsons grew up in Wolfville but was living in the Netherlands during the Second World War with her Dutch husband when she was caught by Nazi forces hiding Allied airmen in her house outside Amsterdam.

She was arrested and sentenced to death, but Parsons appealed and the sentence was commuted in 1941 to hard labour. She spent the next four years in a Nazi labour camp where she survived illness and starvation.

"Mona Parsons did what she did because she believed in freedom and justice, so it's tremendous that she's getting this recognition," said Andria Hill-Lehr, an Annapolis Valley author who wrote a book on Parsons's life.

"People will be able to come to Wolfville and see and read about her life. Her memorial will be a statue and will no longer just be a headstone in a cemetery."

Sculptor Nistal Prem de Boer has replicated a moment of celebration after Parsons walked three weeks across northern Germany and back to Holland. (Submitted by Andria Hill-Lehr)

Parsons is buried at Willowbank Cemetery in Wolfville. Her husband died in 1956 and she returned to Nova Scotia in 1957.

Parsons had been a chorus girl in New York in the 1920s and the statue will show her in a dancing pose. The moment of celebration is replicated by sculptor Nistal Prem de Boer and comes after she walked three weeks across northern Germany back to Holland following her escape from the labour camp in 1945.

"Nistal decided to capture that moment when she was dancing, even though she was in a very weakened state and very emaciated," said Hill-Lehr. "She's kicking off the clogs they had given her for her badly damaged feet and she's dancing with joy."

Female heroes often overlooked

Hill-Lehr said women tend to be buried among the pages of history, and usually it is male military and political leaders who are written about.

"When you find a story about a woman who laid her life on the line doing what she believed was the right thing to do, the just thing to do, which was to resist the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands."

A new 2.4-metre bronze statue of Parsons will be placed at the Wolfville post office.

"That's the site of the town cenotaph, a memorial to World War I and World War II veterans and Korean War veterans," said Hill-Lehr. "It's going to be on the other side of the driveway under a big oak tree that was grown from acorns brought back by a Canadian soldier after World War I."

A new 2.4-metre bronze statue of Parsons will be placed at the Wolfville post office. (Submitted by Andria Hill-Lehr)

Funds for de Boer's $40,000 statue have come from a variety of sources:

  • $17,300 came from a federal legacy fund.
  • $15,000 was donated by the Allen Eaves Foundation.
  • $10,000 has been committed by the Nova Scotia government.
  • $2,300 from the Mud Creek Rotary Club.

The plan is to unveil the Mona Parsons statue on May 5 — exactly 72 years after German forces in North-West Europe surrendered.