I knew I was in for quite a roller coaster ride through the retail business the first day I met my boss - Marsha Dellget. I was just a kid still in high school, working weekends and later full time for Hornes of Wheeling's Bridal Department. Marsha was the head buyer and wedding consultant extraordinare.
I never met anyone with her energy or dedication to the business at hand. She rarely sat still and despite her petite frame, she lugged around heavy wedding gowns and boxes of bridal veils with little effort in those early days. She welcomed me into her fold of wedding professionals, teaching me everything there was to know about fitting a bride into a gown of her dreams.
Marsha could look at a dress on a hanger and determine if it was going to be a big hit with the Hornes' customers. She taught me the difference between parachute silk and satin. I soon could differentiate between appliques and lace, a flounce and a ruffle. Marsha Dellget knew the wedding business inside and out.
She endeared herself to her customers, and she made many friends through the business. I especially loved to hear the stories of her youth in Wheeling. She said she and her sisters often got together with friends at local clubs where, sometimes, they were joined by then unknown crooner Dean Martin.
My stint with Hornes and Marsha was in the early 1970s when the Ohio Valley's population was steady and downtown Wheeling bustled with retailers. There were a number of stores in town also selling wedding gowns, including L.S. Good's, Stone and Thomas, and Kaufman's so competition was pretty stiff in the business.
But I can tell you that there was no shortage of brides walking through the doors of Hornes' Bridal Department. And Marsha greeted each and every one of them as if they were her own daughters. I watched and learned why she was so successful. It was not the garments hanging on the racks that brought people back to the store, it was Marsha.
She spent time with the wedding parties, learning their budgets and concerns, rarely failing to meet their every wish for the perfect wedding. Marsha took me on a couple of buying trips to New York City. She showed me the ropes of wholesale and the sights of New York, something I treasure to this day.
No one would believe that she actually dipped a knit wedding gown into a bathtub filled with water and teabags when it came into the store in white and the bride wanted an ecru gown. But she did. We prayed it didn't rain on the wedding day. We laughed about that little secret for many years. Later, Marsha opened her own shop in Elm Grove and we worked together for a few more years until I entered the newspaper business.
Marsha left us this week, with her family by her side. It's hard to imagine the world without Marsha Dellget, her energy, her zest for life, her faith and her genuine concern for others. Heaven doesn't know what it's in for.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.