Many of you know Mary Cope, a co-op retiree and World War II veteran. Some know her from Hilton Head Island, where Mary worked for Palmetto Electric Cooperative for 14 years. Many know her in my hometown of Ridgeland, where she is still making the community a better place.

At 93, Mary is an active member of Great Swamp Baptist Church, crocheting up a storm to support Operation Christmas Child. For such “outstanding loyalty, dedication and selfless service to the enrichment of life,” Mary earned the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious Sergeant Jasper Award last fall.

I’ve known Mary since I was a boy. She worked with my father, Archie Davis, before I started here. Hired by Palmetto in 1977, Mary retired as our Hilton Head office manager in 1991. The co-op served 1,000 meters on the island when she started; today we have over 36,000 meters there.

We owe it all to folks like Mary—not just our success but our very freedom.

Like many Americans before WWII, Mary immediately stepped up to serve her country—even if it meant bending the rules. She was a 19-year-old switchboard operator at Fort Stewart, Ga., when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in December 1941. Mary and a coworker who worked in the fort’s photo lab doctored their birth certificates to pass as 20-year-olds and become Navy WAVES (Women Accepted into Volunteer Emergency Service).

At the time, Mary felt, “If I had waited until I was 20, the war would have been over!” Fortunately, she remained stateside for the duration.

Better still, Mary made her home here, working for local phone companies prior to joining Palmetto. Using the G.I. Bill, Mary even earned a pilot’s license. She’s a role model for young women and men. Even we adults can follow Mary’s example of “selfless service” to community.

Happy Veterans Day, Mary, and happy holidays to all from Palmetto Electric!

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