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Canton woman honors veteran parents at Marine Corps Marathon

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CANTON — A 64-year-old Canton woman honored her late veteran parents by carrying their wedding photo on her back through her first marathon.

Susan L. Pellegrino, who has been running for 37 years, completed her first marathon Oct. 27 in Arlington, Va., with her parents on her back the whole time.

“For so many years parents carry us as children on their backs in the sense that they’re there for us, encourage us and love us no matter what,” Mrs. Pellegrino said. “This was my time, in a metaphorical sense, to be able to carry them.”

Mrs. Pellegrino’s parents both served in the Army during World War II. Her mother, Gloria R. Miller, was a private working for the Army’s postal division in New York City from 1943 to 1945, and her father, William H. Miller, was a sergeant in the armored division from 1941 to 1945 in Repton, Ala., before he was transferred to New York City, where the two met.

After their service they moved back to Massena, Mrs. Miller’s hometown.

“That day I felt I had a chance to be able to say to them what I wished I had said: ‘I’m proud of you, Mom and Dad, of the parents you were, of the time you spent in the service and of what you accomplished in your lifetime,’” Mrs. Pellegrino said.

She said she remembered her parents were always hard workers. Her mother worked as a licensed practical nurse for Massena Memorial Hospital for years, where patients were always praising her for long hours at their side.

Mrs. Pellegrino said that other racers appreciated her credit to her parents.

“The first person who came behind me touched me on the shoulder, looked me straight in the face and said, ‘Your parents would be so proud of you today,’” she said.

Mrs. Pellegrino said her daughter Jennifer L., who’s been running marathons for years, asked her to run in the 38th Marine Corps Marathon by her side.

“I was never the athletic sort,” Mrs. Pellegrino said. “When I started the running, it was a good feeling to know that I was getting out there and keeping in shape.”

One of the most significant aspects of the marathon for Mrs. Pellegrino was the end, when she not only completed 26.2 miles, but received a medal from a Marine at the finish line.

“I felt very humbled by it, because I thought of what these gentlemen have gone through, many of them receiving Medals of Honor and so on,” she said. “Here they’re putting this over my head and saying congratulations.”

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