Marcia J. Marvel, Lewes doyen

October 12, 2020

Marcia J. Marvel, 88, died Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Lewes. She was born Marcia Jarrett Nov. 10, 1931, in St. Louis, Mo., to Harry Elvin and Dorothy Thomas Jarrett, and was the youngest of six children - and only 10 months old when her father died. She was a child of the Depression, but rarely talked about the challenges she faced growing up. When she was still in her teens, she left Missouri and stayed at a YWCA in Manhattan, N.Y.

Marcia had two great loves in her life. Her first love was New York City. There she would find a job at the Olin Corporation and work as an executive secretary for a corporate vice president of sales named David T. Marvel. Dave would eventually be the second great love of Marcia’s life.

Marcia and Dave were married in August 1972. They lived in an apartment near Tudor City, spending summers in Michigan at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where Dave was a board member.  Dave was 25 years her senior, and she was so devoted to him a family member once observed that Marcia’s name must be “we” because it was clear “we”’ did everything.

Marcia and Dave left Manhattan in 1979 and moved to Lewes. At that time the town was so rustic the mayor ran a gas station. Their home was a lovely gray Victorian on the bay, and soon after arriving they opened the Marvel Art Gallery near Canal Square. In Lewes they were surrounded by a mix of friends and family who included Sophie Marvel, the artist Tom Wilson, Dave’s sister Peggy Quigg, and John and Michele Rollins. Marcia loved traditions, like the yearly Kentucky Derby party she inaugurated with her friend Mary Stuart. Thanksgiving brunches at the Union League Club would include friends like John Kelly and Leslie Ann Bennett, and members of the Marvel family.

Marcia never had any children of her own, but Carra Rhamy, daughter of Marcia’s sister Marilyn, remembers her as “the cool aunt who came to visit from New York.” On Dave’s side she inherited three grandchildren - David, Mark and Elizabeth - who were the children of his son Tom and Tom’s wife Alo. When Tom died unexpectedly in 1981, at the age of 45, Dave would not have survived without Marcia beside him.  

She and Dave balanced each other perfectly. He loved to talk and was terrible with names. Marcia was a listener, which helps explain her shockingly good memory. At social events she would stand beside Dave and whisper names he’d forgotten in his ear.

When Dave died in 1988, Marcia got even more involved with the local community. She volunteered at the Beebe Medical Foundation, where she would serve as executive director until retiring in 2005. She initiated the Beebe/Rehoboth Art League Art Auction and dinner dance and served on the Rehoboth Art League’s board from 1987-1997, and from 1993-1997 as its president. In 2009 Marcia was given the honor of signing the Rehoboth Art League Doors of Fame.

In the last five years of her life, Marcia struggled with health issues, but she never gave up.  After breaking her ankle, the doctors questioned whether she would walk again. Then her grandson Mark called to tell her he and his girlfriend Patty were getting married at their home in Woodstock, N.Y. A few days later Marcia called back and asked Mark to measure the distance from the front of the house to where the ceremony would take place. It was 223 feet.

Three months later her friend Nancy Dickenson drove Marcia to Woodstock. Marcia walked the 223 feet and attended the ceremony.

Marcia was buried at the Earlham Cemetery in Richmond, Ind., Oct. 2 next to her husband David. To honor Marcia, donations can be made to the Rehoboth Art League. A private celebration of Marcia’s life will be held at the end of October.


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