Longtime resident recently attended 45th Annual Meeting
Ocean Pines Association President Doug Parks stood up in front of nearly 100 homeowners on Aug. 10, and asked how many had been to more than 10 Annual Meetings. A flurry of hands went up.
More than 20? A scattering of hands. More than 30? Only a few.
Parks asked because he had just learned that one homeowner, Marlene Ott, has attended more than 40 such meetings.
Ott briefly stood up and bowed as the crowd applauded. She thanked Parks and the Board for their service, adding, “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
One of the original Ocean Pines residents, Ott came to the area with her husband, Dick, and their two daughters, Laurie and Beth, in 1969.
She grew up in Anne Arundel County, the only child of German immigrants who traveled from Bremerhaven to Baltimore in 1928.
Ott attended the University of Maryland, “when boys and girls slept in separate dormitories,” and studied sociology and psychology. She met her future husband in a social statistics class.
According to Ott, Dick approached her and asked if he could hitch a ride to a school field trip. He told her he didn’t have a car.
“Well, he did have a car!” Ott said with a laugh. “I kiddingly say that was the first lie he ever told me.”
Ott finished her college degree in three-and-a-half years, which was unheard of at the time, and Dick enrolled in the Officer Candidate School at the U.S. Naval Academy in Newport, Rhode Island. She remembers being in Newport on the day John F. Kennedy was shot.
The Navy transferred Dick to a destroyer in Norfolk, Virginia, and Ott served as a social worker there for several years, up until her first daughter was born.
The Otts later spent three years in Bremerhaven, in part because Dick fibbed that his wife spoke fluent German. Although her maiden name was Ruppersberger, she did not.
“It was a fantastic time,” she said. “Every weekend we’d say, ‘Do you want to go to Amsterdam or Copenhagen? Hey, let’s do Copenhagen tonight!’ I got to visit with relatives in Germany, and our youngest was born over there.”
Dick’s next stop was supposed to be “swift boats in Vietnam,” Ott said, at which point, he decided to look for another line of work. Instead, he opted to join his brother on a new venture, selling land for a company called Boise Cascade in a place called Berlin, Maryland.
Ott spent the next several years as a stay-at-home mom to her two young daughters, but said it was a happy time. She joked her aunt pulled her aside during a christening ceremony shortly after the move and prodded, “We’re just wondering when Dick is going to get a real job, with the family and everything.”
“I said, ‘He’s bringing home $10,000 a month – I really couldn’t care less!’” Ott said. “It shut her right up!”
Salespeople at the time made 20 percent commission on new lots in what would eventually become Ocean Pines. Lots cost between $4,000 and $8,000 each, plus a 10-percent down payment.
Ott said there’s an Urban Legend that the roughly 3,000-acre area was originally marketed to The White House as a beachfront alternative to Camp David. When that fell through, Boise Cascade took over.
The first phase of construction started at the North Gate at what initially was just “a dirt road into the woods,” Ott said. A community center and pool soon followed.
There were model homes on Seabreeze Road, and Ott remembers seeing early renderings of the golf course and the original Ocean Pines Yacht Club.
Ott keeps in her office a Boise Cascade booklet of “Ocean Pines Facts,” circa 1974. A project concept inside states, “Ocean Pines is a private resort community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Worcester County. Ocean Pines encompasses 3,567 acres of former farm and wooded land with over nine miles of waterfront and waterways on the St. Martin’s River and the Isle of Wight Bay, and includes all the completed and planned facilities and services normally associated with a high-quality resort area.”
Featured amenities at the time included the Ocean Pines Golf and Country Club, the Edgewater Swim and Racquet Club, the Beach Club, an Equestrian Center, and 26 park areas. White Horse Park was described as “41 acres of wooded property with playground equipment, badminton and volleyball areas, picnic tables and charcoal grills, and a launching ramp for small boats.”
Planned additions included the Mumford’s Landing neighborhood and the Sports Core, then listed as a complex that would boast 10 tennis courts, a 49-by-75-foot swimming pool, and an “11-acre stocked fishing lake with sandy beach area.”
As of Sept. 15, 1973, there were 508 homes either built or under construction.
“The neat thing about Boise was they had deep pockets,” Ott said. “They put central water-sewer systems in. They bought a private Beach Club in Ocean City – nobody has a city block of oceanfront land! They put lakes in, and they even hired Robert Trent Jones, Jr. to design the golf course.”
The deep pockets also benefited area schoolchildren. Ott said Worcester County was initially reluctant to send school buses into Ocean Pines, then viewed as a private community, so Boise Cascade hired a team of “high powered attorneys from Chicago.”
“They said [to county officials], ‘Well, we understand that you can’t bring the school buses into our community. And because the school budget is in the taxes, we’re just going to withhold that portion if you’re not going to provide the service,’” Ott said. “Within two weeks, we had bus service.”
Ott, meanwhile, was enjoying her time as a “professional mom” and a busy volunteer. She was the first president of the Ocean Pines Players and had a lead role in their first play, “The Silver Whistle.” At least once she played the Easter Bunny, hopping around White Horse Park and hiding eggs as Tim and Mary McMullen were starting to develop recreation programs for local children.
She was a member of the first chamber of commerce, president of the Showell Elementary School PTA, and a prolific fundraiser for any number of causes.
“One day I came home and told Dick I realized I’d raised about $10,000 for charity this year. He said, ‘Marlene, charity begins at home,’” Ott said. “So, in 1978, I got my real estate license.”
Today, Ott is one of the top agents in the region, working out of a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices / PenFed Realty office on Manklin Meadows Lane. She’s received numerous awards from real estate and community groups over the years, including a Lifetime Achievement honor from the Coastal Association of Realtors in 2014.
She also continues to volunteer. Ott recently served on the 50th Anniversary Committee that on Aug. 21 was honored with a Worcester County Volunteer Spirit Award.
Through it all, Ott remains a proud Ocean Pines resident. She estimates she’s attended 45 Annual Meetings, having missed only a handful in the community’s 51-year history.
“There’s not many of us left that started out here,” she said. “John Talbot’s here. Unfortunately, we lost Jerry Richards maybe two years ago. Edie Brennan is still an agent. But there haven’t been many people that have stayed committed to the business, but also to the community.”
Several decades ago, she said, an Annual Meeting might have included 20 people. Jean Bondi was the first woman Board member, and the first part-time resident to become an elected official. Col. John King was the first community manager.
“Everybody was just committed to making [Ocean Pines] better,” Ott said.
“It’s still a small community – it really is,” she continued. “And I think it is made up of the most energetic, caring people – people who are willing to volunteer their time on all these committees and as a member of the Board of Directors. And even, God bless them, the troublemakers – ‘The Loyal Order of the Spoon,’ as I call them, that get in there and stir the pot.”
Ocean Pines, over the years, has become “a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Ott said. She has a unique perspective as a veteran Realtor who offers “the 50-cent grand guided tour” to newcomers.
“I take them in the North Gate, and I start with, ‘That’s our water tower. That’s the highest elevation in Ocean Pines. It’s 36 feet above sea level. If we ever have a storm, I’m going right there!’” she said.
“‘This is White Horse Park: 120 acres of parkland we have set aside for all the property owners. We have free concerts on Thursday nights, and we have a boat launching ramp and a craft shop. We have 60 organizations you can get involved in, if you want to,’” she continued. “When you take people around for the first time, they go, ‘Wow! Honey, did you see that they have paddleboard and a dog park? And, it’s just six miles to the ocean and they have a private Beach Club in Ocean City!’
“I don’t know why it works, but it does. I just think it’s a unique community. There’s nothing like Ocean Pines,” Ott said. “It’s incredible.”