Marsha Warner, a former guidance counselor at Gulf High School for 32 years, volunteer with the Gulfport Merchants Chamber and previous manager of Gulfport’s Tuesday Fresh Market, died of cancer at her home on Sunday, March 28.
She was 69.
Warner chose to spend her last months surrounded by her many friends and daughter, Alison Warner, 27, as well as her two dogs, Fritz and Tofu.
“My mom was a very kind and genuine person, always thinking about other people,” Alison said. “She loved animals, and that was like her love for anything – a lot.”
Though she battled endometrial cancer for years, the community will remember her for fierce support, and working for the Tuesday Fresh Market, a weekly tradition that she called “a labor of love.”
Thirteen years ago, Warner planted her roots in a Gulfport home that she dubbed “The Caladium Cottage.” She filled the space with her pets, plants and love.
“She knew every person on the street, every vendor at the Tuesday Fresh Market,” her longtime friend, and former president of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber, Lori Rosso said. “She was the first one to tell a truck that was blocking a booth to ‘move it’ – a very frank woman.”
Warner earned her title as the “Sheriff” of the market, watching out with an unwavering full-toothed grin.
“She always had a smile on her face,” said Suzie King, owner of SIK Promotions. “She did a lot for the community, and was always so knowledgeable.”
Warner earned her Bachelor of Science and Masters in Business from the University of South Florida. She spent her working years impacting and teaching youth.
A proud lesbian, Warner never married, but adopted a baby girl from China over 20 years ago.
That baby girl is Alison – today a Realtor in St. Petersburg – who remembers her mom as a driven women who fought for her daughter’s place the world despite being a single, gay woman in the 90s.
“She really always wanted the best for me; she wanted me to have every opportunity,” Alison said. “I did everything, every extracurricular as a kid.”
Warner was one of a group of 10 women who traveled to China to adopt infant girls; they dubbed themselves “The China Sisters.” Every two years, the cross-country group of mothers and daughters got together for a reunion.
“I wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of love and support by the community, all the communities, for her,” Rosso said.
Even in death, Warner hasn’t forgotten the people of Gulfport. She asked that those who want to honor her memory buy from a local artist in her name.
“I fear death, where she just faced it,” Rosso said. “Marsha’s favorite color was purple and she was truly a force to be reckoned with.”