Marsha Love is a descendant of Delray Beach pioneers. She will participate in the Delray Beach Historical Society’s ‘Christmas at Cason Cottage: A Designer Showcase House.’
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
When it comes to local pedigree, few can compete with Marsha Love of coastal Delray Beach.
Her great-uncle was the area’s first physician, arriving in 1905. Her grandfather was Delray’s first registered pharmacist, establishing the long-running Love’s Drugs. Her great-grandfather, a minister, came out of retirement in the late 1920s to help rebuild a hurricane-damaged church that was later renamed in his honor: Cason Memorial Methodist Church.
Love’s roots run so deep in Delray Beach, her childhood memories may seem surreal to those of us transplanted from elsewhere.
“I went to elementary school in the building that’s now the Cornell Museum at Old School Square,” Love said. “When I was in school there, my great-grandparents’ house was across the street to the north, my grandparents’ house was just across the street to the west, and two of the family drugstores were a couple of blocks away. Oh, and my great-uncle Van’s house was on the corner, which is now DaDa Restaurant.”
When not in school, young Marsha would often play around in the original Love’s Drugs, located at the corner of Northeast Fourth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue (now the site of a bank).
“I used to climb up in a special place and squirt the pharmacists with my squirt gun, until my father found out and made me stop,” Love said. She also used to raid the comic book section, taking copies of Katy Keene, Little Lulu, Nancy and Sluggo.
“I thought they were free because they belonged to the drugstore. My father straightened me out by saying, ‘Honey, I am the drugstore.’ ”
With so much of her own history intertwined with local history, Love, 67, is devoting time these days to helping the Delray Beach Historical Society raise needed operating funds.
She rejoined the board of directors last fall and started a committee to promote Cason Cottage, the restored 1924 home built by her great-grandfather that serves as the Historical Society’s headquarters and museum.
Love’s committee has been busy planning “Christmas at Cason Cottage, a Designer Showcase House,” featuring the work of 11 local interior designers. More than just decorating the cottage for Christmas, each designer will be assigned one room to redesign in the spirit of the period from 1915 to 1935.
A kickoff party is planned for Dec. 1, and the Designer Showcase will remain open until New Year’s Day for public viewing.
As an additional revenue source for the Historical Society, Love has written a children’s book about a fictitious cat living at Cason Cottage. The book will be on sale for $15 during the Designer Showcase and beyond. Love says its publication was made possible through contributions from local supporters Bob Ganger, Matt Gracey, Mary Ellen Cook, Charles and Priscilla Hardiman and Bob Currie, a local architect who sketched the book’s illustrations for free.
“Our mission is simple: to raise awareness of Cason Cottage and raise money to keep our Historical Society going,” she said.
— Paula Detwiller
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. At the time I was born, there was no hospital in Delray Beach, so I entered our world in West Palm Beach. However, I grew up in Delray as part of the fourth generation of my family to live here.
On my mother’s side I am a sixth-generation Floridian, since her ancestors were living in the Jacksonville area before Florida became a state in 1845. I graduated from Seacrest High School, and then earned a B.A. in English from Florida State University, an M.A. in student personnel administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an interior design degree from the New York School of Interior Design.
I also took graduate courses at the University of South Carolina, where I studied under Dr. Ennis Rees, who later became poet laureate of South Carolina, and he influenced my desire to write.
I’m sure that living in Delray, surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-aunts and uncles, and cousins taught me to appreciate family and the joys of living in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. It also caused me to become accustomed to lots of light and to being near the sea. I feel landlocked when I am in a place that isn’t near the ocean.
Q. How/when did you become involved in the Delray Beach Historical Society?
A. I don’t remember the exact year that I became involved with the historical society, but I believe I was first appointed to the board in the 1970s after I returned to the area from graduate school. I later became president of the society in 1986 after my stint as president of the Junior League of Boca Raton, and was on the board for many years prior to that.
Q. Tell us about your book.
A. My children’s book, The Cat at Cason Cottage, is essentially historical fiction combined with a ghost story, targeting 5- to 8-year-olds. In the book, Clarabelle, a lonely little marmalade cat who lives at the Cason Cottage Museum in Delray Beach, wants nothing more than to belong to a person who loves her. The story unfolds as members of the Cason family appear nightly to Clarabelle as spirits and tell her about their lives when they resided in South Florida.
Q. Have you had other careers (or hobbies)? What were the highlights?
A. I have always admired the brilliance and versatility of Thomas Jefferson. His ability to do many things well made me want to try to emulate him, so I have had — and continue to have — several careers.
I was assistant dean for student affairs at Florida Atlantic University for 10 years, which gave me a great deal of administrative experience.
Wanting more contact with students, though, led me to follow several other courses simultaneously, which I still pursue today. I am currently adjunct professor of English at Palm Beach State College, an ex-designer with Tulane Kidd Interiors, and a writer of children’s books and adult essays. I also have an online proofreading and editing service.
Needless to say, between these things and volunteer work, I don’t have much free time! When I do, I love to read, travel, entertain, study art history and do genealogical research.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. I have had many, many mentors. My parents mentored me into believing that I could do anything. (Fortunately, I believed them.)
Jean Wells, national president of my sorority and a board member of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, taught me the importance of volunteering. Dr. Doris Seward, assistant to the president of Penn State University, mentored me in my choice of profession.
Imogene Lane, dear friend of 25 years, has helped me in how to deal with life’s adversities. I am exceedingly grateful for these and many others who encouraged my writing, including Phyllis McGinley, Pulitzer prize-winning poet, and Catherine Marshall, author of A Man Called Peter.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Delray Beach?
A. I love being in familiar surroundings and seeing people I’ve known for years frequently. Old friendships sweeten life immensely. It’s also nice to live in a small town with access to the benefits of a cosmopolitan city.
Q. What book are you reading now?
A. The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey. I read about a book a week on average.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. I am a fossil when it comes to music. I love show tunes, Sousa marches, Viennese waltzes and classical. I find Bach extremely relaxing and Tchaikovsky and Beethoven inspiring.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. Meryl Streep. Her acting ability is, in my opinion, incomparable. Besides, we shop at the same store in Williamstown, Mass.: The Library!
Q. Who/what makes you laugh?
A. I think Will Ferrell is one of the funniest people on the planet. When he imitates “Dubya,” I go into hysterics.
If You Go
‘Christmas at Cason Cottage, a Designer Showcase House’
Cason Cottage Museum, 5 N.E. First St., Delray Beach
Proceeds benefit projects of the Delray Beach Historical Society
Cocktail party kickoff:
6:30 p.m. Dec. 1,
$75 per person
Showcase House self-tours: open through New Year’s Day
$15 per person
Hours: Sunday, Dec. 2, noon to 4 p.m.
Tuesdays -Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve
Final day: Jan. 1, 2013 — noon to 4 p.m.
Virginia Courtenay and Hazel McGuire, Virginia Courtenay Interiors, Delray Beach
Gus Martinez and Marsha Love, Tulane Kidd Interiors, Boca Raton
Annette Smith and Karen MacClaren, AES Interiors & Associates, Delray Beach
Kim Baguley, Palm Beach Portfolio, Delray Beach
Donna Sloan, Sloan & Sloan Architecture and Interior Design, Delray Beach
Rhonda Sexton, Sexton House Interiors, Delray Beach
Sharon Koskoff, The Art Deco Society of the Palm Beaches, Delray Beach
Ron Weeks, Weeks (floral design), Delray Beach
For more information and to purchase tickets:
Delray Beach Historical Society, 274-9578; www.delraybeachhistory.org