The Many Facets of a Community Jewel

Dolly Marascalco puts heart into work for city, county, state.
A portrait of Dolly Marascalco. Photo by Tori Hosey.

Dolly Marascalco is a juggler. She’s a business owner, mother, wife and grandmother. She sits on the state board that oversees community colleges, and every time you turn around she’s plunging into a new civic project.

Her secret: stacks of spiral notebooks that tell her where to go and what to do next.

“Everybody uses their phones, their laptops and things like that, but I have always had about five spiral notebooks,” Marascalco said.  “That is how I have always run my organizations and my community involvement. I’ve always used lists. It’s always been a spiral notebook even in this day and time.”

Marascalco keeps a notebook in every room of the house. She wakes up in the middle of the night to furiously scribble notes and admitted that sometimes she can’t even read her own handwriting when she wakes up in the morning. She even uses her huge bathroom as an office and spreads notebooks all across the floor to organize her to-do lists for the next day.

And for good reason. It helps to be organized when you’re as involved as she is. After all, she frequently finds herself jockeying with state and federal officials to get help for her hometown. For example, she helped convince state officials to put their last public golf course – Dogwoods – on the lake. And she testified before the Mississippi River Commission to help spring loose $13 million in federal money over a 12-year period for improvements at Grenada Lake.

“I would ask for all these things, and I’m standing in front of a panel of Mississippi River Commissioners. I had to stand before them, and I had to sell them on what I need for my lake. If I do a good job, I get it, and if I don’t, I didn’t. I was never turned down, ever,” Marascalco said.

One look at a table full of photos in her Party House and her influence in Republican politics becomes obvious. There’s photos of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Senator Thad Cochran, former president George W. Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney, former senate majority leader Trent Lott. The list goes on and on.

What keeps her going?

“I love my town. I love my community. I love my state. I love my country,” Marascalco said. “If you’re going to be the passive one that sits back and does nothing, what do you have to show for it at the end of your life? I do things that I like, and I really haven’t found anything that I don’t like. It’s just the love for people and the love for my town and country.”

Marascalco did not always feel this way. When she first moved to Grenada with her husband, Dr. Frank Marascalco, from her hometown of Greenwood, it was an adjustment, but she quickly adapted to the Grenada community.

“The first year that I was here, I was actually miserable because I didn’t know anybody,” Marascalco said. “I started meeting people at church, and I had my first Christmas party in December for about 25 or 30 people. And that opened the door for me.”

Today, the Marascalco Christmas parties in the Party House, a huge, one-room, cedar and glass building, attract locals, Republican Party leaders and people from all over the state. The Party House sits right behind her family home in a 20-acre yard near a fish pond. It was built in 1987 and can hold up to 100 guests. As a people-person, Marascalco said she never meets a stranger and built the Party House to continue to entertain her guests and be more in-tune with the people of Grenada.

“I knew this was going to be my life, and I knew that this was where I was going to live and probably eventually die. You either sit at home and do a little or you get involved with the community, and I chose to get involved,” Marascalco said.

Never at a loss for words, Marascalco is a blunt force of energy. Laughing, she said her doctor once told her that she has too much adrenaline. When she builds up a head of steam, the words flow like a roaring river. It’s who she is.

When she moved to Grenada 42 years ago, Marascalco first joined Business and Professional Women and soon became president of the organization. She was the first woman to serve two consecutive terms as president of the Grenada Chamber of Commerce in 2013 and 2014. Marascalco is only the third woman to be elected president in the body’s nearly 90-year history.

“I loved it. It was not sitting at the head of the table. It was listening to everybody, listening to the community, going out and doing things for your community. I think a lot of people don’t give women credit for things that they do. A wife raises the kids, cooks the meals, cleans the house, runs the errands and a lot of other social things,” Marascalco said.

Through all of this, she and her husband have tended to her specialty boutique, Dolly’s, First Health Pharmacy, Sav-Mor Drugstore, two buildings in Tunica and Clarksdale and a family rental business.

“My husband has the business part of our business, and I’m the people person. I never have met a stranger,” Marascalco said. “I like everybody until they give me a reason not to. That’s how our business really grew. He had the business sense, and I met the people in the community.”

For Marascalco, nothing makes her prouder than her family. With her husband, she has two children, one daughter and one son, and two granddaughters. Her children live nearby with their families in Memphis and Southaven. One granddaughter is a student at Ole Miss and the other is in high school. Marascalco said her children and their families are far enough away where she doesn’t bother them but close enough for whenever they need her. That’s the way she likes it.

She also likes being at the center of the action, whether at home or some local project. For her, it’s important to keep going.

“If you don’t have memories, what do you have? I look at it that way. Everything that I’ve ever done has made me happy. I’m hoping it’ll be a good legacy when I pass on from this world,” Marascalco said. “I want my children and grandchildren to be proud of me also. If they ever come visit me when I pass on, they can say I remember a lot about my bebe, that’s what they call me.”

Article published in the Grenada Star on Apr. 27, 2018.

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