Dr. Marie Cowart, 87

Marie Cowart’s story begins in New Jersey. Her mother died when Marie was just five months old leaving her father to care for her and her older brother. Her aunt and grandmother helped to raise her. She learned the art of embroidery, knitting, and tatting from her German grandmother, Amelia. She still likes to “knit and tat because it’s faster.” Embroidery is too slow for her.

When she was seven, her father moved his family to St. Petersburg. St. Pete was “full of older people, retirees. Many sitting on green benches.” Marie explains.

Marie accidentally fell into nursing because a high school friend needed a roommate in nursing school.  She attended college at the University of Florida and worked at Alachua General. Being raised by her grandmother and growing up around so many elderly folks in St. Pete inspired her to study gerontology.

Marie’s resume is long, but the highlights include Professor in the School of Nursing and Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Director of the Pepper Institute on Aging, and Dean of the College of Social Sciences. She also served on the Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Nursing Homes for 12 years. Dr. Cowart was also instrumental in starting the Senior Center’s Health Program in 1978.

She met her future husband in Gainesville. “He was shy, tall, and dark, and I always dated blonds,” she laughs. They were introduced by a mutual friend who assured her they had a lot in common. Six months later, she and Jim got married in the living room of a Justice of the Peace in Daytona Beach. The woman had only performed one other ceremony and she baked them a chocolate cake. She still has the bride and groom cake topper.

She and Jim were married for 47 years until his death in 2008. They raised two boys, Jimbo and Bill, who live close by and have three grandchildren – Bethany, Eli, and Theo. Marie and her two grandsons enjoy traveling together and have vacationed in Iceland, Yellowstone, and Key West, to name a few.

Marie lives in Westminster Oaks and has chaired many committees. She was the 2019 Volunteer of the Year for her work with planning the Memory Care Center. She also served on the Health Services, Art, and Residents Councils. “My new mission for retirement,” she laughs, “is to no longer chair any more WMO committees!

Marie stays busy by socializing with her neighbors. “We started a Driveway Drinking group during the pandemic. It’s so important to stay socially active. You just wither up if you don’t stay engaged.” She says the secret to aging is to “expand your interests and prepare for retirement.”

Marie enjoys taking art classes at the Senior Center and took one with her son Bill this spring. She also cares for an elderly cat, Roxy, after her owner passed away and a cute 15 year-old dog named Bella whom she adopted from the Humane Society.