Laura Lee Parrish’s life transformed when she went from farmgirl to Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) Courier in 1970. A Bourbon County, Ky. native, Laura was familiar with FNS when she began her journey 130 miles southeast to Leslie County. Little did she know how much of an impact the experience would have on her.
According to Laura, she always had a desire to serve the Eastern Kentucky community. However, having grown up very simply on a farm, she was unsure of her abilities to help when she arrived at FNS.
Laura soon learned that quite the opposite was true, and that her experience with the farm would actually benefit her in her service with FNS. She was made responsible for taking care of the FNS mules and was in her natural element as their caretaker.
During her time in Hyden, Laura regularly crossed paths with Helen “Brownie” Browne, the Director of FNS from 1965-1975. Around the time of Laura’s service, Helen Browne lived on the Wendover property in the Big House. Laura loved seeing her at tea every day, often with special guests. Brownie invited the likes of Kate Ireland and Nancy Condiff, as well as those in the surrounding Hyden community, to come to Wendover for afternoon tea. Laura was inspired by Brownie’s passion for bringing the community together.
More than caring for animals and having tea with FNS icons, Laura’s service with FNS truly opened her eyes to the lack of quality medical care in the Eastern region of Kentucky.
“The experience made me so aware of the goodness of FNS, and the needs that these people had,” she said.
Laura also gained a great deal of respect for the Eastern Kentucky people, who always stuck together no matter the situation.
She and her trusty Plymouth Duster were often sent to pick up a patient and bring them to University of Kentucky hospital. More times than not, the whole family came.
“We were stuffed in the car for the day,” she said. “It was neat to me that they wanted to stay together.”
Like many Couriers, Laura’s sense of compassion and understanding for the Eastern Kentucky community grew as she served with FNS. After her service, Laura’s cousin, Helen Parrish, decided to become a Courier as well.
Laura Lee Parrish answered the call to service with FNS. Learn how to become a Courier today!
In 1928, Mary Breckinridge, founder of Frontier Nursing University established the Courier Program, recruiting young people to come work in the Kentucky Mountains and learn about service to humanity. Couriers escorted guests safely through remote terrain, delivered medical supplies to remote outpost clinics, and helped nurse-midwives during home visits and births. Frontier has benefited tremendously from the 1,600 Couriers who have served since 1928.
At the heart of Frontier Nursing University is a talented and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, Couriers and preceptors. Spotlight blogs feature members of our FNU community that are focused on the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to deliver quality health care to underserved and rural populations.