Businesswoman-Volunteer Extraordinaire

By Beverlye Fead   |   November 11, 2019

Adele Marsh was born February 2 at 1:16 am in Utica, New York, into the arms of Faye and Nat Marsh. Faye was born in the US and is a descendant of Lithuania background while Nat Marsh was born in London, England, and one of eight children.

Because of the backgrounds of both of her parents, Adele came into this world strong-willed and proud, but also intensely private.

Adele Marsh

Her parents believed behind her quiet exterior lay a great deal of emotional depth, and fierce determination. She was not one to be averse to challenge or facing the darker side of life and still functions well in crisis situations. As a matter of fact she often seeks out challenges and loves to enjoy the feeling of living at full capacity.

As far as friends go, she is very careful in picking them. “I look for quiet strength, in good friends, who are both loyal and faithful” she says, “I have a strong gut reaction about people which often proves to be correct.”

So how has she put this all to use?

She graduated from college with a BA and thought she would go into merchandising, since in 1951 women had little choice in careers. She loved design, whether it was interior or clothing.

She lived and worked in the early ‘50s in Syracuse, New York and in Norfolk, Virginia where her ex-husband was stationed. After being raised in Utica she married in 1951 at 19 years old and moved to Schenectady, New York and then Albany, New York. It was in 1968 she moved west to Ventura, California with her husband and one child. She established a career in interior design and this led to working with many builders in furnishing model homes along the coast from L.A. to Santa Barbara.

The 1960s and 1970s were the growth years for establishing connections with developers.

In 1964, she and her husband and two children moved to Santa Barbara. She quickly opened an interior design-furniture store and developed a reputation of Model Home designer/retailer/in-home designer, where she was associated with more than 10 developers. I see now, how she liked to live her life to full capacity! As the ‘60s moved on with more and more developments and new homes she began to need more help and added more designers to their staff. By 1975 she was well established and had become successful and known for her talent and place in the field of design. This is where she used her ability to deal with challenges.

As her career flourished, so did her need for stimulation and other activities. She played many roles, but something was missing.

One night while lying in bed, she figured it out; community involvement and giving back to the community is where she needed to be. This is when she took on another career: Community Activist and Community Humanitarian.

In 1986 she asked herself where she could make the most contribution of time and talent. After accepting the role of a fundraising member on the CALM Board in 1986 the idea of having a Santa Barbara Showcase House, much like the famous Pasadena Showcase House, this was her new project. The board approved the idea and she set forward to learn the ins and outs from the Pasadena group. She put a committee together and searched for the appropriate home to remodel. This is where she showed how strong-willed she could be.

Dr. and Mrs. Frank Ashley had the perfect home on the Knapp Estate and they were willing to move out of their home for six months while 12 local designers remodeled and decorated the estate with her as the lead honcho. It became the worse nightmare of her career. She now had 12 designers, six contractors, a deadline of six months to open to the public, and a headache. The months passed very quickly and the grand opening was held in May 1986 with a gala and over 1,000 viewers. CALM raised $50,000 and that was considered a success. What a coup for Adele!

The CALM board repeated this fundraiser and her job was to keep the designers happy and the people coming to view the finished products of two more design houses.

In 1998, Michael Towbes called with an idea that was presented to him from a friend who heard about a traveling exhibit called ”The Anne Frank Exhibit.”

It was that year that the one of the high schools had a tragic racial incident and the school leaders were aware of the serious need to address the issues of teaching tolerance in the community.

Michael became the fundraising link and Adele took on the role of director of a month-long stay of The Anne Frank Exhibit. She also added many more exhibits and programs that involved all schools from Carpinteria to the Santa Ynez Valley. Over 10,000 students were bussed to see the exhibit at the Karpeles Library.

In 1999, Bill Cirone, Superintendent of the County Schools, asked her to take the full-time role of developing a permanent program that would be offered to all schools with the mission of teaching understanding and respect. It sounds like once Adele made up her mind to give back to the community, she went feet first!

Having never been a teacher, she jumped in and became a full-time volunteer. Soon she had the pleasure to associate with Robin Yudelson, a therapist and a volunteer. The Beyond Tolerance curriculum also included trips to the Simon Wiesenthal Museum in L.A. for 10th graders and a historical theatrical program for 8th graders called Living Voices.

While serving nineteen years at the schools with Beyond Tolerance, “I always remained involved by serving on the S.B. Museum Women’s Board, becoming an honoree for ADL, a Woman of Valor for the Jewish Federation, and an advisory member of CALM,” she says. The most important and meaningful volunteer call-to-action time she has spent is being a mentor to a young friend who is now an adult. Adele has been a loyal supporter of CADA and its mentor program since it began.

“My life is so full of the acorns that I have planted. My visions began as a designer and as I hold on to ‘visions’ I look to the next page that will bring me growth. I never want to forget the laughter along the way.” Says Adele, with a wise smile.


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