This story about our family's beloved matriach was written by her nieces and great-nieces. It is based on Milly's sporatic journaling, letters, family stories, photos and recollections gathered over many years. Everytime we would tell a "Milly story" someone would say, "You should write those down." This is our effort to do that. We didn't know how else to memorialize her, except to tell her life story. None of us are very tech savy and we wish we could have made a prettier webpage.

Her exact birthday was never properly documented, but she had a big birthday bash every year, just never on the same date.

We miss our dear Milly. == Milly Parker 1898?-1999 ==

Milly Parker was born into an East Coast family of means around the turn of the last century. In Milly’s teens her father operated, then purchased one of the first movie theatres near their home, eventually taking over operations of several surrounding cinemas. By the time the Depression hit, he owned more than twenty Parker Cinemas up and down the east coast. Parker Cinemas boomed during the 30’s and Mr. Parker sold the chain to Warner Bros. when he retired just before World War II. He had influence in the films that were shown in his theatres which gave him access to some movie industry elites including a few movie moguls and celebrities.

Milly attended private schools, but kept friends in many strata of life. Her best childhood friends were Clara, the daughter of her apartment building doorman and her school chum Henry Rudd, nephew of JD Rockefeller. Milly found high school pedantic and as a voracious reader and a charismatic confabulator, she was able to convince her teachers to let her graduate early to “just get on with life.”

She expected to participate in her graduation, but was invited by Henry on a last-minute folly to voyage from New York to Liverpool with is family aboard the Ellerman Line’s brand new SS City of Paris during her sea trials. With a full complement of staff and only one tenth of the ship’s passenger capacity on board, Henry and Milly took full advantage of the opportunity to not only explore every nook of the ship from which they weren’t shooed away, but also to partake in all of the luxuries that were lavished upon them. During the voyage they were a bit blindsided when their youthful friendship bloomed into affection and they became more than just chums.

One of the promotional shots taken by Elleman Line that Milly got to be in.

Milly had planned to return home directly, but after traveling around England with Henry and falling-in with several of his compatriots from Cambridge, whom she called “people of big appetites for both food and ideas” she remained in London for an extended period. She would insist later in life it was to pursue a pass degree in English at Girton Women’s College Cambridge, but those who knew her well said she clearly wanted to stay in close proximity to Henry. During that time Milly, Henry and her new-found merry band would bundle off to Paris for weeks at a time where the sensibilities (or lack thereof) of the Années Folies were in full swing.  Milly found herself folded in to the crowd that gathered for Gertrude Stein’s impromptu salons. Henry was enamored with the salon crowd, but Milly preferred the after-parties and stopped attending the salons altogether once they became too erudite, opting for the wildly feral late-night discussions that somehow always ended on the roof of the Hotel Le Bristol where the gang generally headquartered themselves. Eventually she and Henry drifted apart romantically, but stayed in touch through their entire lives.

A few classes away from completing her pass degree, Milly returned to the states for what was supposed to be a brief visit to attend the opening night of her friend George Kaufman’s new play on Broadway. While in New York, she met travel writer Richard Halliburton and pilot Moye Stephens through acquaintance Douglas Fairbanks (who pursued Milly on and off after they met sharing a cigarette in the alley behind the Rivoli Theatre when the world-premiere crowd for his newest movie became too madding. Although very private about the true nature of their relationship, friends said they would disappear for days at a time when Doug came to town.)
After a post-cocktail-party conversation that lasted nearly 18-hours and spanned three speakeasies ending with eggs, cigarettes and “breakfast martinis” at Chumley’s, Halliburton and Stephens insisted Milly join them on the next leg of their “flying carpet expedition” (that would later become Halliburton’s well known book, The Royal Road to Romance.) Milly convinced herself she would return to her coursework after the trip and agreed to go along. A few weeks later at the appointed rendezvous in England, on a chilly Christmas morning she climbed aboard Moye Stephens’ open cockpit Stearman C-3B breezily abandoning her belongings on the tarmac when it became obvious the trunk would not fit in the plane’s diminutive cargo hold.
After a year or more of hopscotching across Spain, Morocco and northern Africa the high-spirited threesome was grounded with mechanical problems in a desolate fuel stop 50 miles south of Tripoli. Officials from a nearby desert village sent out word and an Italian military caravan diverted to pick up the travelers who were somewhat reluctant to leave the exuberant hospitality of the locals. Stephens stayed with the plane while Halliburton accompanied Milly to arrange her passage back to the US. He needn't bothered. While traveling with the caravan, Milly secured a berth in the officer’s quarters on a Regia Marina cargo ship headed to Algiers by besting its commander in several games of hocca along the way.  Once in Algiers she boarded the RMS Aquitania for passage back to America, adjusting to the fact that she would no longer be the “playful mascot” on the bridge; a privilege she enjoyed while aboard the Italian military cargo ship.

Milly said she took this photo just before leaving the cargo ship.

During the long days at sea aboard the Aquitania, Milly heard rumors that the second class lounge was featuring an American jazz trio. Finding jazz much more compelling than the string quartet that lullabyed the first class guests on their after-dinner promenade, Milly and several other travelers turned accomplices snuck their way down to Deck 4 most evenings and even occasionally smuggled a few of their new found second class friends up to Milly’s parlor for animated debates on jazz v. “real music.” It was one of these evening that Milly found Alexander Dollar amongst the crowd in her parlor. He was staunchly, yet playfully a member of the “real music” camp and Milly became smitten as they exchanged barbs and counterpoints tit for tat. Alex was returning to Philadelphia from a business trip in North Africa on behalf of his family’s shipping business.

Milly followed Alex to the Philadelphia area and invited herself to lodge in a guest house on her brother’s estate there. During a long courtship she and Alex spent a few seasons “corrupting” her nieces and nephews with spontaneous train trips to New York and occasionally Washington DC. The couple treated the teens as contemporaries instead of children; skipping the typical sights in exchange for explorations of more obscure destinations like poetry readings, experimental theatre and long quiet hours in the ornate public library where the youth would pour over books and contemporary magazines to sharpen their forensic skills that would be tested at the next late night dinner with Aunt Milly, “Uncle” Alex and guests twice their age.

During her time in Philadelphia, Milly reconnected with her childhood friend, Clara, after she had mailed Milly a small packet of writings, drawings, clips and musings she and Milly had collected in their youth for a never-realized scrapbook. Milly invited Clara to lunch at the Oak Room and discovered that Clara had continued to write into her adulthood. Milly was able to parlay Clara’s talent into an entry level job for her as proofreader and copywriter for the New York University Press through an “uncle in every way, but blood” who sat on the board of directors. Still girls at heart, the pair fell back into close friendship and saw each other frequently.

Milly & Clara

While proofing a departmental manuscript, Clara became acquainted with Jonathan Stoker the assistant head of the Mathematical Sciences department at the university. Over the academic year, the acquaintance blossomed into a relationship and the pair were soon married. Jonathan, Clara, Milly and Alex became a galvanized foursome easily falling into a pally friendship.

Milly and Alex continued to court while Jonathan was sought by the British Royal Engineers to oversee the administration of the newly founded Maclagan Engineering College in India’s Punjab Province. It was never a question that Milly and Alex would be excitedly encouraged to accompany the couple as they established a new home on the sub-continent. Milly jumped at the invitation, but Alex held back. His family’s business was booming and he felt it was time to focus on business pursuits and called the trip “just folly.” Their relationship wobbled as the disagreement persisted. Alex cared for Milly deeply and in an effort to tame the relationship that was spinning away from him, he rather abruptly proposed to Milly one night at dinner. Milly gently rebuffed. The relationship became clunky after that and the couple spent less and less time together eventually letting go completely.

Clara & Johnathan (we think.)

Milly decided to join Clara and Jonathan without Alex. Within a few months she found herself in Lahore, India attending parties at the government houses of the Indian Civil Service officers, many of whom’s sons were studying at the college where Alex was working.

During a Christmas holiday, the Under Secretary of Punjab Province invited several academic families and their friends to accompany his family on a trip to the Christmas Festival in Bandra. Expecting their first child, Jonathan and Clara opted to stay in Lahore, but the Under Secretary made a special effort to assure Milly she was quite welcome on her own. A mathematics graduate student Ishan Ghosh was assigned to Milly as a travel escort and on the train down to Bombay she developed a quick bond with him. Ishan, a British national, had been raised in India and Milly was beguiled by the way he navigated the narrow, noisy streets around the train station in Bombay as he searched doggedly among the vendors for the orange that Milly had casually mentioned as being her favorite Christmastime treat. When settling on a mango which Ishan conceded “at least had a similar hue”, the pair realized they had ventured far too deeply into the city to make it back in time for the departing connection to Bandra. Fluent in Urdu, Ishan made quick work of a Plan B by engaging a rickshaw puller. Before dinnertime they had checked into rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel with Ishan’s promise to have the chef prepare Milly’s mango for dessert. After hearing their story, the chef surprised the pair with a three course dessert: orange parfaits, orange mascarpone and oranges flambé.

One day in Bombay stretched into two and two into many. Although they kept both guest rooms rented, only one showed signs of much use. Eventually they sent word ahead to their party in Bandra that they would be Christmasing in Bombay and made arrangements to have their travel trunks delivered to them at The Taj. They had settled in quite easily to their daily schedule of exploring the city, spirited conversation in the evenings around the piano in the hotel lounge with other guests, followed by lengthy dinners prepared by their new favorite chef.

At the school.

Milly with Clara and Jonathan (and others) near Lahore.

When they had nearly exhausted the sights of Bombay, Milly was approached by Sydney Gorrie, a hotel guest that had caught Milly’s attention in the ladies day room with her cerebral tea-time discussions on modern feminist philosophy. Sydney suggested that Milly and Ishan travel with her to Hyderabad for an upcoming charity ball. Still having some time before classes recommenced, Ishan agreed and two days later the three of them gathered on the front steps of the Hyderabad Government House for a photo as they entered the grand ballroom of the National Collegiate Board’s Annual Charity Gala. During the six hour long festivities, Milly was introduced to Annie Besant the founder of the National Collegiate Board. Finding Milly easier to talk to than the “guests of obligation”, Annie kept circling back to Milly. Deeper into the party, Milly manage to scuttle the hostess outside to the side garden where the two smoked cigarettes in the dark as Annie told stories of her women’s rights activism and provocative feminist writings.

Milly sent this from Bombay. The family story is it took several months to arrive.

When it came time for Ishan and Milly to head back to Lahore, Annie was unwilling to let the conversation end. She invited Milly to stay-on in Hyderabad offering her one of the many accommodations on her expansive estate where she and her staff managed the philanthropic work of the Collegiate Board as well as hosted many artists and writers. Captivated by the intellectual vortex of art and non-conformity that swirled around everyone Milly had met through Annie, she told Ishan to let Clara know she would be staying “for a time” in Hyderabad. After much cajoling to get Milly to accompany him, Ishan reluctantly returned to Lahore without her to continue his classes.
Annie and Milly spent most days together, each energized by the other. Annie engaged Milly in assisting her to compile her writings into a book. Milly was positively absorbed by the project. Over time, Milly also began organizing Annie’s work with local women’s rights groups and read every book on feminism she could find on the estate. During this time Milly wanted to share these new ideas with Clara and sent her some samples of Annie’s writings. Clara encouraged Milly to send more and eventually Clara sent the most provocative pieces back to an editor at the New York University Press. They were soon published and Annie was invited to New York to share her work at a gathering of the National Women’s Party. A few days before Annie and Milly were to leave for America, Milly received a letter from Alex. Alex had been missing Milly deeply and desperately wanted to find a way to reconnect. He had heard she left Lahore, but he did not know where she ended up. A friend pointed out a mention of Milly in the byline of one of Annie’s articles and Alex took a chance that a letter might reach Milly if he sent it care of the National Collegiate Board in Hyderabad.  The letter reminded Milly of all the reasons she originally fell for Alex and it compelled her heart to tug in his direction. There was no way to respond since Milly knew a return letter would arrive in America after she did. She would just have to wait to contact him until she was back in the states.

Annie in the middle, Milly is on the right.

Milly settled once again at her brother’s to be close to Alex hoping that Annie was not feeling rushed to return to India. During this time Milly and Alex rekindle their relationship, spending most nights dining out together. Milly’s days were spent compiling and editing the ever growing body of Annie’s work into articles which she fed to press contacts she made at the National Women’s Party conference. Through this group of women Milly was invited to functions at the New York Women’s Press Club where she became well known for her wit, lively conversation and astonishing stories of her travels. They insisted she join and when the press club’s magazine The Pen Women lost its assistant editor, Milly’s name was immediately brought up for consideration. She took the job only after receiving Annie’s blessing to stay in the US, promising to continue to find outlets for publishing Annie’s work.

This is thought by the family to be mostly Milly's friends from The Pen Women.

Milly was torn between her love in Philadelphia and her work in New York. She adored working on the magazine, but missed her evenings with Alex. Alex was not about to let Milly get away again and made a bold gesture that ultimately won him Milly’s heart. He offered to move is office to the Dollar Shipping Company’s New York building so Milly could continue her work and they could remain together. Milly saw the veiled marriage proposal for what it was and exuberantly agreed.  The pair moved in to a townhouse on the Upper East Side and left for work every morning holding hands while they walked all the way to 57th street where they parted company for the day.

Not long after the lazy patterns of newlywed life kicked in, the Dollar Shipping Company landed a contract to be the primary shipper for the new Dutch rubber harvest operations in the Putumayo River region along the Peru/Brazil border. Alex was called upon to head to Manaus to set up their offices there. This time it was Milly that was reluctant to leave. After much hand wringing by Milly, the publisher of The Pen Women assuaged Milly’s concerns and let her know her job would be there for her when they returned. They also encouraged Milly to consider writing her own articles and submit them while they were in South America.

Young Alex

The move to Manaus was no trifle of a journey. Milly and Alex flew aboard Pan American to Caracas, Venezuela then traveled aboard one of the Dollar cargo ships around the east coast of South America and up the Amazon River to the surprisingly cosmopolitan city of Manaus. Others they met along the way were surprised to know that neither the transcontinental flight nor the voyage aboard a cargo ship were firsts for Milly.

They settled in a house provided for them in the Adrianópolis neighborhood and it took Milly little time to connect with fellow expats in the area. Her method was to say yes to every invite to tea among the local aristocracy, magnates and diplomats and then befriend any women who she never saw at any of those parties

Milly sent this postcard while in Manaus.

The large house came with resident help, which was a boon for Milly since this was her first experience with running a large home.  Milly particularly liked one of the young cooks named Mururi. She was from an indigenous tribe called the Witoto. Milly saw brightness behind Mururi’s eyes that intrigued her. Although Mururi only spoke her indigenous language and a few words of Dutch and Portuguese, Milly engaged her in conversation anyway. She was absolutely willing to include gesticulations and pantomime to get her ideas across. Mururi was enthralled by Milly and appreciated the extra attention. They hadn’t lived in Manaus for long before Mururi was mastering some English and even reading a few words. Alex and Milly took Mururi under their wing and began to treat her more like one of the Philadelphia nieces than kitchen help. She went with them on some of their outings and they included her when they invited their friends over for dinner.  Milly continually asked Mururi to take them to meet her Witoto family, but she was respectfully turned down each time. Milly sent an article about Mururi back home and it was eventually published in The Pen Women as a travel log.
About the time Milly was feeling at home, but also longing to know when they might be returning to New York, Alex contracted malaria while overseeing the dock expansion and died very suddenly.  The shock was tremendous and the added complication of living in a remote city in the jungle compounded the devastation for Milly.  Her small cadre of American friends quickly came to her aid and helped Milly deal with the unexpected tragedy. There was no way to transport the body quickly, so Milly had to make arrangements to bury Alex in Manaus. Although not churchgoers, Milly accepted the offer from the nearby Church of St. Sebastian to hold a small service in their side chapel.  One afternoon after the tumult had died down, Mururi led an exhausted Milly to a small bench under a tree in the yard. There she made a circle around Milly from exotic flower petals and placed a small pouch of white powder she called yakoana in Milly’s hand. They had never covered the vocabulary around death and mourning, so Mururi had to use their modified gesture language to explain to Milly that she should put the powder under her tongue to take away the sting of grief. Milly did not have the strength to protest and did as she was told. Milly never learned what was in the powder. All she knew was she awoke the next morning tucked in her bed feeling very well-rested and very peaceful. Mururi did not like to have her photo taken. This is the only image that survives. Milly wore it in a locket for many years.
Alex’s family arranged for Milly’s return home. Milly left Mururi in charge of closing up the house and shipping her belongings with the promise to have Mururi come visit her in America once the task was completed. Milly found comfort and renewed energy at The Pen Women offices. She worked long hours continuing her assistant editor duties as well as submitting a few articles from her time in the Amazon. The townhome seemed too large now, so Milly moved to smaller quarters closer to work. Once she had resettled, she sent for Mururi and the two enjoyed a summer exploring the East Coast through Mururi’s fresh eyes. With Milly’s continued tutelage Mururi was now nearly fluent in English and Milly offered to enroll the bright young woman in the girl’s secondary boarding school near Philadelphia that Milly’s nieces had attended. Mururi heartily accepted. Inspired by Mururi’s dedication to her studies, Milly decided it was time to take the remaining classes that would complete her degree in English studies. Through her connections with Clara and Jonathan at New York University she received special commendation to enroll in just the classes she needed.  Within a couple of years she had her degree which gave her a satisfied feeling of completion.

Around this time Milly received an invitation to speak about her time with Annie Besant to the Los Angeles Women’s Press Club through a photojournalist friend Margaret Bourke-White whom she had met in Hyderabad when Margaret was covering Annie and the suffrage movement in India. Having been editing, writing and studying non-stop for a number of years, Milly decided a trip to slower-paced Southern California was well deserved.

Her brother’s youngest daughter (and Milly’s namesake niece), Mildred (Millie) Parker, got word of Milly’s forthcoming trip and invited her to visit on her way out west. Milly delighted at the idea of reconnecting with the wildest of her nieces who had left Philadelphia immediately after college. Determined to do everything on her own, “Little Millie” made her own way west by working in a string of train station Harvey Houses until she landed in Denver where she got a job working in the kitchen of Colorado Women’s College as she pursued a master's degree in creative writing.

Since Little Millie refused any monetary assistance, Aunt Milly thought she could give her niece a leg-up by connecting her with the few Denver Women’s Press Club members she had heard of through her work at the magazine. Aunt Milly insisted on sharing some of Millie’s writings with the ladies of the club and soon after Milly’s visit, young Millie was taken under the wing of several members of the club. They encouraged Millie and offered help in ways that allowed her to keep her fiery independence.

"Little" Millie in Denver during Milly's visit

Suffering from undiagnosed fatigue and malaise, Margaret Bourke-White had rented a house in Playa Del Rey in Los Angeles for several months. Milly fell-in easily to Margaret’s breezy lifestyle on the water. They visited many art openings, salons and movie premieres. Margaret quizzing Milly about her time in India working with Annie and Milly countering with endless questions of Margaret’s coverage of the war.

During one of their jaunts into Hollywood, Milly was recognized by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. at a movie premiere. He had met Milly a time or two when he traveled east with his father. He hadn’t seen Milly since his father died and he was anxious to know if all the wonderful things his father had said about her were true. He invited Milly and Margaret over for dinner with a few friends.

At that dinner Milly met Robert Surtees an accomplished cinematographer who was recently signed to be Director of Photography for an upcoming Arcola Pictures film. He was particularly interested in Milly’s vast travel experience as the production crew was about to set off for several months of shooting in Bora-Bora and Robert had never traveled abroad. Robert and his wife Maydell wanted to hear more and asked Milly and Margaret over for a nightcap after the dinner. A friendship blossomed and Milly found herself invited to the Arcola Pictures lot for a tour and lunch. It was there that Robert mentioned that due to the extended shooting schedule the studio was offering to bring his family along for the duration. He asked Milly if she might be willing to help Maydell with their two young children in exchange for a tropical vacation. Having already taken so much time away from her assistant editor duties in New York, Milly hesitated. She conferred with a melancholy Margaret who was discovering whatever ailed her was not being cured by sunshine and moist ocean air. Margaret reminder her that women like them “are not meant to be still.”

We believe this is Margaret's car in Playa del Rey, but we don't know the woman in the photo.

Fueled by Margaret’s wisdom, Milly explained to her publisher it was time for someone else to have the opportunity to work on such an impactful and important publication. They only partially accepted her resignation, insisting that she forever stay a member of the writing pool. Milly agreed.

Once again Milly found herself on a long ocean voyage, but this time across the warm Pacific. The staff onboard provided respite care for the children, so Milly’s duties were minimal. But even after they arrived in the Pacific Islands Milly discovered the Surtees’ had overestimated their family’s need for additional help.  Maydell asked Milly to do less and less and eventually their time together became more social than anything else.

Milly loved watching the hustle and bustle of the crew and actors, but her charisma and uninhibited nature didn’t allow her to blend in on the edges of the crowd. Before she knew it she was being included in conversations, lunches and even after work revelry. Although still compelled to be a part of the action Milly surprised herself as she began to feel drawn to the quieter people and smaller groups and even occasionally found pleasure in walking the secluded nearby beaches all by herself. With so much time on her hands, she crafted her writings more precisely and uncharacteristically took time for rewrites before mailing her articles back to New York.

During one of her early morning writing sessions a gust of wind lifted the papers from her lap as she sat outside the Surtees’ palapa. A gentleman that was walking by the row of stilted houses rushed to help Milly recover her papers. His name was Pike Emory, Jr. and he was a geologist from the US Geological Survey sent to Bora Bora to study the chain of volcanoes along the Leeward Islands. He had, of course, heard there was a Hollywood movie being shot on the island, but didn’t know much about it. Milly offered to take him to the set and show him around. Milly (as well as everyone he was introduced to) was charmed by Pike’s quiet, yet radiant demeanor and his sparkling aqua colored eyes. Pike had to attend to his research, but as often as he could he found reasons to be “coincidentally” walking by Milly’s hut or drifting near the set.  Very little of the hours they found together was spent talking to each other. Their companionship possessed a quiet understanding. They were perfect company and didn’t need to work at explaining why.

Looking for more opportunities to spend time together, Milly began accompanying Pike on some of his research treks near the dormant volcanos nearby and she proved herself valuable by being a quick study with Pike’s theodolite and other surveying tools. She did not mind making the exacting notations in his voluminous research journals and found she had a head for geometry.

Pike in a rare moment of relaxation.

Although the big stars of the film had a tendency to keep to themselves, they sensed that Milly had a genuine confidence and charm that made her stand out from “needy” show biz people. As a result Marlon Brando included Milly on the guest list for his wrap party aboard a small sea yacht that took the cruisers to nearby Teti'aroa for the day, a small island that Marlon was considering buying. She brought Pike along and again found herself sitting quietly next to Pike, away from the fray, on the roof of the pilot house, the wind whipping their silvering hair into tangled messes.

With the last of the production being packed up, it was time to board a ship back to Los Angeles. Pike asked Milly to stay on to help him finish his research. He swayed her with the promise of an upcoming trip to Japan where he would be meeting up with fellow geologist Kiguma Murata to finalize their paper. Milly didn’t need much persuading since the easy flow of island life and the rigors of Pike’s research satisfied both her contrasting contemplative and analytical sensibilities.

Milly said she would have never asked for an autograph, but many signed photos circulated around the crew.

By the time Pike was wrapping up his work on the island, Milly had transformed into a long-haired bohemian islander. Her skin had turned a tawny brown and her hair was an unruly nest that she pretended to control with beaded hair ties she bought from the locals. Since there were no commercial airports in the region, the trip to Japan was a hopscotch of small prop planes over the islands to Patpeet, Tahiti, where they boarded a French research cargo plane to Hawaii. During their short stay on Oahu, Milly’s fruitless attempt to civilize her hair ended with her shrugging to the hair dresser, “Just cut it all off.” In an era of big hair, Milly’s yet to be named pixie cut made her even more conspicuous.

Pike and Milly boarded one of Japan Airline’s first transcontinental flights that stopped in Honolulu on its way to Tokyo.


As soon as they were settled in Tokyo, Pike’s research partner, Kiguma Murata, insisted they accompany him to a social gathering of expats, university and government people. Although it sounded formal in its description the event turned out to be surprisingly casual. Among the many people Milly and Pike were introduced to that evening, was Jirō Shirasu a writer for The Japan Advertiser, an English language newspaper. When inevitably Kiguma and Pike’s conversation turned to their current paper, Jirō and Milly swapped press club stories and inevitably the conversation circled back to Milly’s extensive travels. While recounting the tale of how she convinced a police officer near Cambridge to give her a ride on the back of his motorcycle because she was running late for class.  Jirō pulled on the thread to discover that Milly dated his Cambridge classmate Henry Rudd. Milly was thrilled at the connection and was happy to hear some news about her boyfriend from all those years ago.

During their time in Tokyo much of Pike’s days were spent in meetings and writing, but when they did have free time Jirō and his wife  Masako Shirasu were their first choice in companions. Masako was an artist with a cutting edge aesthetic and Milly relished their long talks when the foursome would venture out to their country home, Buaiso, on the weekends.

Milly’s time in Japan was rich with art, conversation, writing and the deep learning that comes with living once again in a new culture. The affection she and Pike had for each other took on the patina of marriage, but neither expressed a need to formalize the relationship. When Pike and Kiguma’s paper was finally published, the USGS wasted no time in assigning Pike to his next project near Tokyo at the caldera island of Nishinoshima. Pike asked Milly to go with him.

She pondered it, but felt the last several months with Pike had been so perfect that she didn’t want to add a coda and potentially ruin the perfect ending. Pike was disappointed, but understood Milly so deeply, her response did not surprise him. Milly promised to write and she kept that promise, writing to Pike regularly for the rest of her life.

One of the only photos we could find showing Milly after she chopped her hair off.

Once she was back stateside, Milly lingered in Los Angeles for a little while, checking in on Margaret whose mysterious symptoms had started to point hauntingly toward Parkinson's. Milly took the time to help Margaret travel back to Connecticut where she could be near her family and pursue a more hopeful diagnosis.

On her train trip down to New York, Milly reconnected with Mururi who was raising her family with her husband on a small orchard near Gardners, Pennsylvania. Milly enjoyed seeing Mururi so prosperous and happy. When asked what she might be able to do for the couple, Mururi told her she had already done it.

Manhattan seemed a bit fast-paced for Milly’s sensibilities now, so she cleaned out her apartment and asked after “her” cottage on her brother’s estate. His son was running most things nowadays and assured Milly the cottage will forever be Aunt Milly’s place whenever she needed it. She settled in there once again.

Train service into the city was becoming less frequent and to keep her independence intact, Milly decided it was time to learn to drive. Instead of taking lessons, she just went out and bought a brand new white Oldsmobile Delta Royale convertible. She sat in the dealer’s lot going over the controls remembering what she observed when Margaret drove them around Los Angeles. When she felt it was time, she “just turned the key and drove.” And drive she did. Milly drove and drove. At first it was mostly into the city to lunch with some of her press friends, but soon she was driving past the city, into the country, along the coast, over the hills and even through snow. She visited every friend, family member and acquaintance within a 150 mile radius usually keeping the top down except on the most frigid of days.  Around this time Clara and Jonathan returned from India and were living in Washington DC. Milly drove down to see them while two of their grown children were visiting for Thanksgiving (a third still lived in India.)

Milly’s Oldsmobile circle ever widened and when she ran out of people to visit in the east, she began making broad loops through the Midwest. When she wanted to visit a city, but couldn't come up with anyone to visit, she would just drop by the local newspaper or women’s press club and make new friends on the spot.

After years of hard driving her Delta Royale’s drive train began to fail and so did Milly’s eyesight. After nearly 150,000 miles on the open road Milly’s confidence waned when she accidently drove off the road by miscalculating the distance to the exit ramp. Her traveling circles became smaller and eventually she was sticking to the familiar roads near her cottage. Her second driving mishap left her stranded down an embankment out of sight of the road. She sighed, got out and walked the remaining three miles home. She never saw her “great white” again, asking her nephew to sell it without towing it home so she wouldn’t have to see it.

Unable to do her visiting in person anymore, Milly leaned more heavily on letter writing. She continuously sent notes and cards to keep up with everyone’s news. The postman always had a stack of envelopes for Milly to open. Milly got a surprise one day when one of those envelopes was postmarked Calistoga, California. Milly could not remember meeting anyone from Calistoga. It turned out to be a photograph of Milly, Richard Halliburton and Moye Stephens standing in front of Moye’s C-3B. On the back was scribbled, “Morocco. Marvelous Milly, Rich and me.” A note was included from Moye’s son. After Moye had died his children found the photo. The son remembered his father’s stories of his wild escapades that year and the “marvelous Milly Parker” was mentioned often. Though it took some time, he was able to track down the correct Milly Parker through the Halliburton family and thought she might like to have the photo. She did. (Someone in the family has this photo, we've seen it. Still looking.)
As her body failed her, Milly kept writing. When arthritis got the best of Milly’s fingers, Mururi brought over a typewriter she had from her school days and Milly continued to slowly peck out travel articles for The Pen Women (and letters to Pike.) That is how her nephew found her one sunny morning when she wouldn’t answer the phone. Slumped in her chair, one finger still on the keyboard. The letter read, “To My Dearest Pike.”

Milly's cottage (as it looked in 2001 when a few of us drove down "memory lane" together.)