Computer-savvy great-grandmother wins Mother of Integrity award

Elaine Ussery is the recent winner of the Mother of Integrity award. - Photo by Valentina Petrova
Elaine Ussery is the recent winner of the Mother of Integrity award.
— image credit: Photo by Valentina Petrova

On the day before Mother’s Day, Susan Pargman called her mother in Tracyton with some news.

“She said ‘I entered you in a contest and you are now called Mother of Integrity,’” Elaine Ussery said.

“She was pretty surprised,” recalled Pargman, laughing. “She said ‘What have you done?’”

Pargman’s essay about her mother made Ussery the winner of the contest sponsored by Integrity Online, an Internet provider.

“As a grandma she has created a special quilt for each of the grandkids. But her gift of comfort reaches even beyond her family. ... My mom’s love is without a doubt the greatest influence of my life,” wrote Pargman in her short essay.

“What you see there is not 1 percent of who she is to me and who she’s been to our community,” said Pargman, a Bremerton resident and a copywriter for a Poulsbo-based marketing and advertising agency.

Ussery credits her daughter’s eloquence as a writer for the award. But Pargman said she has many more stories than she could fit into words.

Ussery was a stay-at-home mom who played on computers and took care of Pargman and her three brothers, Jim, Steven and Chris.

Ussery likes to talk about her four children, just as much as she likes to talk about her 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Her oldest son, Jim, died nearly two years ago from a brain tumor. He was a computer programmer working in Washington, D.C., Ussery said.

Steven is a farmer in Oregon and Chris, in Chicago, writes original music for television shows on the Discovery and A&E channels.

With family scattered around the country, Elaine and her husband Ray Ussery moved to Tracyton at the end of 1990, to be closer to one of their children.

When Ray retired from the Air Force in San Bernardino, Calif., Elaine had been working as a computer programmer for a university medical center. It was the first job she had but after eight years, Elaine called it quits. She and Ray piled the family dog and three cats into the car and moved to a house they had only seen in photos and video that Pargman had sent them.

Almost immediately the Usserys auditioned for “Music Man” at the Central Stage Theater of County Kitsap (CSTOCK) in Silverdale. They both got good parts and made many friends from rehearsals.

“It’s a good way of getting acquainted,” Elaine said.

Since then she and Ray have also performed on stage at the Bremerton Community Theatre and Admiral Theatre.

Elaine has been an actor, a costume maker, singer, volunteer and fund-raiser for various community groups, Pargman said. But lately she has spent most of her time at home caring for Ray, who has cancer.

In the last two years, Elaine said, she has read more than 314 books out-loud to her husband. Mother’s Day was no exception.

She and Ray went out for ice cream and stopped by Wal-Mart for Elaine to spend her Mother of Integrity gift card.

“And then we went back home and I started another book,” she said.

Up until last year, she called her own mother for the holiday, but now Elaine is the matriarch of the family.

“I have to stay home on Mother’s Day,” she said, “to answer the phone. And everybody called.”

Including her grandson Randy, Pargman’s oldest child, who is a computer programmer for the FBI. A few weeks ago the Usserys received a letter with “mushy stuff” from him, Elaine said. Randy Pargman was thinking his grandmother for introducing him to computer programming years ago on one of the first Atari computers.

It is Elaine’s involvement with her kids and grandchildren, from sharing her passion for computers or theater to packing everyone’s lunch with personalized notes, that inspired Pargman to nominate her for the award.

Pargman’s daughter, Cara, now a nursing student at Olympic College, entered a Safeway writing contest when she was 6. Thanks to that initiative, Pargman is now a former Mom contest winner herself.

“I thought if (Cara) could do it, I better do that for my mother,” Pargman said.

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