Living in Place: A Community Love Story

 Living in Place: A Community Love Story

by Katheryn Howell, ISR Senior Director of Programs

It’s been a great joy to have Marilyn Sherman Clay as my neighbor for almost two decades.  I recently invited Marilyn to sit with me to talk about living in the place we call home.  Marilyn is a trusted expert that folks turn to for real estate advice.  I had a few provocative questions for Marilyn to consider as we sat together at a local spot in Coupeville, where we live. I asked Marilyn if she wanted to walk into town with me later, but she declined. I had brought Frank, my aging pup, to our meet-up because he and I would both benefit from getting in some steps, and our meeting spot is dog-friendly. I also needed to stop by the post office on the walk home.

Marilyn was early to our meeting and was chatting with a fellow townsperson as I walked through the door right on time.  Marilyn, in her beautifully styled scarf and sweater, and I, in my polar fleece and jogger pants, settled in at a table in the back of the house as the sun set over Penn Cove. The flame of the fire in the fireplace played in time to the chatter and laughter of the locals arriving and leaving this neighborhood hub on a Friday night. We started with light small talk, remarking on the loud howling from our local coyote den, which seemed agitated by recent lunar activity.  We swapped stories about the neighborhood white deer that terrorizes the town.  Our wildlife activity provides regular fodder for local conversation.    

As we chatted away, locals and visitors stopped by our table to say “Hi.” Marilyn introduced me to one of the visitors as having been her classmate in kindergarten.  As a kid growing up in an Army family, these deep roots are foreign to me, yet these are roots Marilyn knows well.  She also knew that there had been several in-town grocers and meat markets within the last century and that Prairie Center, in earlier days, was a department store that sold Levis and the newest Beatles album. Prairie Center continues to be a town mainstay purveyor of food, selling vegetables grown in soil stewarded by the Sherman family for over a century.  Visit the Scenic Isle Farms website,, and you’ll meet the current generation of Sherman farmers.  Stop by in October for seasonal farm fun and pick up a famous Sugar Hubbard Squash, delish!   

We spoke of neighbors and those we’ve lost over the last two decades.  We reminisced about a particular neighbor who used to coordinate the neighborhood bridge club.  Since her passing a decade ago, her home has been turned over to new owners three times.  Marilyn tells me that a home turns over every eight years on average in America.  Change can be good for a neighborhood to keep a healthy mix of people coexisting in the community. 

For over a decade, I lived next to Marilyn’s mom, Jean Sherman.  Jean lived 100 years, moving to the home she built when she was 83.  I have fond memories of Jean on her tractor mowing her lawn and me hanging over the fence to talk with her.  Jean championed every move I made.  When I moved to L.A., Jean said, “How fun” and “Have the best time.”  When I moved back to Coupeville, Jean said, “Welcome home; I missed you.”  That support to help young people lean into change and feel good about exploring and then to welcome them home made an impression and felt important to me.

Indeed, change is good, and as Marilyn says, “If you can walk to something, you will age better.” I hope to walk the streets of Coupeville for years, enjoying all that the community has to offer, and I remain open to all the possibilities.