The Way We Were: Marjorie Broward

The Way We Were: Marjorie Broward
Marjorie Broward with map of her travels

She’s prayed in a Sikh temple in India and walked through treetops in a rainforest on an island formerly known as Borneo. She’s had drinks at Raffles Bar in Singapore and dined at the Four Seasons in New York. She’s watched the waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans come together at the Cape of Good Hope, flown in a helicopter over the Great Barrier Reef, sunned on the beaches of Cancun, Fiji, Sydney, Palau, Jamaica, and Namibia, taken a river cruise through the Netherlands and a boat trip up the Inland Passageway to Alaska. An avid student of art, music, and culture, she has admired paintings by Aborigines in Kakadu National park, wooden carvings of the Maori in New Zealand and been there when Joan Sutherland sang “Tosca” at the Sydney Opera House. 

Marjorie and Kristanna Broward, Colorado 1967

Marjorie and Kristanna Broward, Colorado 1967

At age 93, as retired librarian Marjorie Broward reviewed just a few of the many adventures she’s experienced, she marveled.

“Me! Born and raised in a small village in a rural Minnesota farming community during the Great Depression,” she declared, smiling.

“As a preschooler, I was given a picture book of children from around the world. Later, choosing a career as a librarian guaranteed I would have access to unlimited travel through books, but I never thought I would see young children press their faces against the window of a car stopped at a red light in Nairobi as they begged for food, or see a duckbilled platypus, or meet an Aborigine. I never thought my wildest dreams of travel and adventure would come true … but they did!”

Born July 28, 1924 to Joseph and Anna Grimes, Marjorie grew up in Grand Meadow, Minnesota and earned a Library Science Degree at the University of Michigan in 1948. While serving as Librarian for Architecture/City Planning at Georgia Tech in 1951, she met architectural student Robert Charles Broward, a protegee of Frank Lloyd Wright. They were married in August 1952. 

Marjorie Broward at Eventide with daughter Kristanna

Marjorie Broward at Eventide
with daughter Kristanna

“We moved to Bob’s hometown of Jacksonville in 1953 because he was eager to begin to practice architecture,” recalled Marjorie. “He felt the city had great potential, seeing the river as a special asset. We had both become passionate about city planning and would speak about it before any group that invited us. We were especially concerned about strip malls and urban blight – Main Street being a prime example at the time.” 

Bob and Marjorie Broward moved to Switzerland (northwest St. Johns County), where they built their home, Eventide, and welcomed their daughter, Kristanna, into the world in September 1954. During the next decade, Bob Broward began to establish himself as a highly acclaimed architect who would eventually design more than 500 projects and earn many honors including induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2012. 

Although Marjorie and Bob Broward divorced in 1963, they remained friends throughout his life and Marjorie was deeply involved in helping him write his book, The Broward Family: From France to Florida, 1764-2011, published in 2011 by the Jacksonville Historical Society.  Robert Broward died in 2015, at age 89, leaving an important legacy behind. 

“Our city is still striving to reach that potential which Bob Broward envisioned over 60 years ago when he chose Jacksonville over a career working with Mr. Wright,” noted Marjorie, who has, herself, made significant advances for the citizenry of Jacksonville.

Marjorie Broward visiting a marketplace in Borneo

Marjorie Broward visiting a marketplace in Borneo

In the 1950s, Marjorie Broward established the Bookmobile Service for the Jacksonville Public Library and in 2002, following her amazing globe-trotting career as a librarian, she returned to Jacksonville and coordinated the JAXREADS project which began with students across the city reading the novel, To Kill and Mockingbird. 

Back in 1964, having moved to Boulder, Colorado and taken a position as Business Librarian at the University of Colorado, Marjorie traveled to New York to work in the World’s Fair at the library in the U.S. Pavilion. A six-week course at IBM on early use of computers prepared her to help people learn about subjects like space, history, science, geography and more. Marjorie was fascinated by computers.

After her daughter graduated from Boulder High School in 1972, Marjorie took a leave of absence and went to Melbourne, Australia to teach in the Library School at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. 

Marjorie Broward, Harrison Barnes, Kristanna Broward Barnes, Hampton Barnes, Margaux Barnes

Marjorie Broward, Harrison Barnes, Kristanna Broward Barnes, Hampton Barnes, Margaux Barnes

During the mid-1970s, back in the United States, she consulted with the Manville Corporation, taking frequent trips to New York to meet with Space Design Staff and eventually going to work for Manville full-time. She spent some years in Sydney, Australia organizing Insearch Dial Services at the New South Wales Institute of Technology, and working on other projects, eventually returning to Jacksonville when her daughter, Kristanna, got married. During the 1980s, Marjorie split her time between Jacksonville and Australia, consulting with Consolidated Press in Sydney, and enjoying grandchildren at home.

In 1994, at age 70, Marjorie Broward volunteered with the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) Global Missions, assisting librarians in organizing and computerizing theological seminary libraries in Malaysia, Namibia and Kingston, Jamaica during the next seven years. 

“I broadened my understanding of different countries and cultures, and most importantly, found my faith strengthened through contact with Christians of other cultures,” Marjorie said.

Marjorie Broward with friends in Nambia 1997

Marjorie Broward with friends in Nambia 1997

Recognized in 2006 with the Volunteer Jax Literary Award, Marjorie continued her travels, remaining actively involved in her church and community. In 2016, she and her family took a trip to Vietnam, where she sailed on the Mekong River and toured the ancient library at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. 

Today, Marjorie Broward lives in a Lakewood high-rise apartment and can be seen almost daily walking on the treadmill in the exercise room or swimming in the pool.

Is Jacksonville’s most adventurous librarian preparing herself for the rigors of another exotic trip? 

“There are still some wonderful places I’d love to visit,” said Marjorie. “Only God knows where I’ll go next.”

By Susan D. Brandenburg
Resident Community News

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