Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Marrett had gone from France to Missouri. This was supposed to say Branson, Missouri.
Barbara Marrett was never fond of dry work meetings and her retirement party on June 17 was definitely not dry.
Participants dressed up in costume attire to surprise Marrett and give thanks for her nine years of working as the media relations manager of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau. June 30 marked her last official day before retirement.
“Going forward, I recommend the staff have games or prizes at our meetings,” Marrett said as she placed a rainbow hat upon her head. “It just makes things a little less dry.”
Marrett, who is originally from New York, came to San Juan Island 43 years ago via Berkley, California. She kicked things off on the island as a graphic designer.
It all started when she went in to print cards at the local print shop, which had just been purchased by Larry Duthie. The next day, he had hired her to run Harbor Press, which was the printing division of The Journal at the time.
“At that point, we had the largest collection of handset type west of the Mississippi,” she said, where they printed the newspaper, menus and business cards. Even though she was running a print shop, she added with a laugh, “I really knew nothing about printing.” After six years, she left to start her own print shop.
Marrett said her life philosophy is “Always say yes.” Throughout her life, she proved to truly live by this philosophy.
When she first met her soon-to-be husband on the island, he asked her on their first date if she’d like to sail to Easter Island with him.
“I said, ‘Yes. Where is it?’” Marrett said jokingly. A year later they were married and a year after the marriage they finally took off in a 31-foot sailboat and sailed from Friday Harbor to Australia.
On their voyage, they stopped by many different island groups, including Easter Island and the Galapagos. Spending time in remote villages and getting to know the people there was one of her favorite parts about the trip, Marrett explained.
“When you’re cruising, you don’t have a time limit,” she said. “If you find a village you love, you can stay there for a few weeks and get to know the people.”
In some cases, Marrett said they would sail back to the same village to revisit. The villagers would invite them ashore to eat and Marrett and her husband would invite them aboard to eat in return. She described the villages as generous and subsistent. Marrett was inspired to write a book about her experience called “Mahina Tiare: Pacific Passages.”
Once her three-year excursion came to an end, she began working at Arctic Raven Gallery and stayed for 11 years.
When her current position came along at the San Juan Visitors Bureau, Marrett said she wasn’t sure if she could do it, but here she was, nine years later. She credits her obtaining the job to her life philosophy.
“Again, you just say yes, and you figure it out as you go along,” she said.
Since saying yes to the job, Marrett has seen the company grow. When she first started, there were four people working out of one office and now there are four separate offices.
Marrett had many interesting moments throughout her time at the San Juan Visitors Bureau, noting watching the fireworks with English actor Martin Clunes to be one of her favorites.
“You know, it was like we were old friends. That was really, really fun,” she said.
Marrett also got the opportunity to go to media marketplaces all over the world, bringing her to visit places she never thought of visiting on her own, like Branson, Missouri. Recounting all of the places she had been, she said, “Memphis, not my favorite place. … Louisiana, you know, alligators and not much else,” she added with a chuckle. Despite alligators, Marrett said she appreciated the experience that was granted to her when she got to see these places.
Another opportunity Marrett enjoyed was when L.L Bean was considering doing a photoshoot on San Juan Island, Marrett got to scout out barns for the brand to use, enjoying taking all the backgrounds to find incredible barns, she said.
The examples she provided consist of just a small portion of the surprise and adventure that her job provided her.
“When you come in in the morning, you never know what you’re going to do that day,” she said.
While Marrett is adjusting to the lack of deadlines in the next chapter of her life, she plans on remaining in the islands while carrying on two more years on the Port Commission and writing for “Cruising World” magazine.
When she’s not on the island, Marrett can be found sailing — and saying yes to more adventure.
Marrett said sailing makes her feel like a child again.
“You be instead of do and that is such a great feeling,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that.”