By Robert Sprague
Charlotte Dumas’s life has been centered in East Greenwich for so long one could be forgiven for thinking she was simply a nice older woman who led a sedate life. But Dumas, this year’s grand marshal for the EG Veterans Day Parade Friday, has had quite an adventurous life.
Her early life was very local, centering around the Hill and Harbor Historic District. She was born on Melrose Street in 1925 and, four years later, moved to Montrose Street. She attended James H. Eldredge School from kindergarten to 9th grade, then attended the East Greenwich Academy on Peirce Street, graduating high school 1943.
This is when her life experiences expanded beyond East Greenwich. She went to Colby College of Maine for two years, finishing up her college education at the University of Rhode Island. Upon her graduation in 1947, she began her career as a biochemist at Harvard Medical School. Dumas took her talents to Japan where, in 1949, she became the Service Club Director at Johnson Air Force Base (now named Iruma Air Base) near Tokyo under the Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron.
During her time in Japan, the Korean War broke out just west of where she was stationed. After moving to Germany in 1952, she once again served as Service Club Director for the First Army of Shweinfurt. When her husband, James Dumas, retired from the military in 1969, they moved to Barnesville, Georgia, where she began her second career – as a school teacher. Despite the United States Supreme Court’s decision desegregating public schools, Georgia’s schools were still segregated and so she taught in both all-white and all-black schools. After a 10-year stop in Loveland, Ohio, where she taught science, Dumas moved back to East Greenwich, settling in her family home on Montrose Street. She still lives there today, walking to the Swift Community Center every weekday for lunch and to participate in many the senior citizen activities offered there.
We talked about her selection as grand marshal of this year’s parade. Dumas will lead the parade, riding in a convertible (weather permitting) and then she’ll “say a couple words” once the parade concludes at Town Hall. While she believes her duties are minimal, restricted to “smiling and waving,” her role as grand marshal acts as a symbol of all the great Americans who have given years of their life in service to our country as military veterans. When asked what it meant to her to serve as grand marshal this year, she reflected on how unique it was for her as a woman to have had the opportunity to serve overseas in Germany and Japan and she seemed very happy to be recognized for this honor.
The East Greenwich Veterans’ Day parade is an important tradition and an opportunity for our town to show its pride and patriotism for those who served and protected our country. Charlotte Dumas is an East Greenwich legend and is a perfect grand marshal selection to lead the parade this year. I look forward to seeing her serve in this very special role, “smiling and waving” as she drives by.
Robert Sprague is a senior at East Greenwich High School.