'Just keep gathering history': Longtime Destin museum director Kathy Marler Blue retires

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

After being the face of the Destin History and Fishing Museum for more than a decade, Kathy Marler Blue has stepped down as executive director. 

Blue, has led thousands of tours through the jam-packed museum, during her 13 years of service. However, last summer Blue suffered a stroke and was unable to return to work. Vivienne Williams, her assistant, stepped in to serve as interim in her absence. In January, Williams was named executive director. 

Earlier this week, the museum held its annual volunteer appreciation luncheon at Dewey Destin’s on the Harbor. 

Blue was honored with a couple of surprises. 

Vivienne Williams, newly selected executive director of the Destin History and Fishing Museum, presents Kathy Marler Blue with a personal gift for her many years of service.

“A lot of her work has been silent … silent and unacknowledged work,” said Tara Destin, museum board president. 

“But we see you and we’re so happy to have you here,” Destin said. 

Williams first presented Blue with a personal award, a crystal plaque, for her years of service. Blue served 13 of the museum's 17 years. 

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Williams had another surprise for Blue. 

“Kathy has been a huge historian for the city of Destin and the museum. So a lot of the research we have done on the families were done by Kathy. So, we are dedicating the archive room as the Kathy Marler Blue Archives,” Williams said. 

“The archives are in your honor,” board member Jason Belcher said. 

Kathy Marler Blue shows off her gift she received from the Destin History and Fishing Museum for her years of service. Blue worked at the museum for 13 years.

The plaque with the inscription, “In honor and recognition of outstanding commitment and distinguished service of Kathy Marler Blue to Destin” will be placed above the door to the archives. 

“This will be hung proudly in your honor forever in the museum,” Williams said. 

“Just keep gathering history, don’t let it die, don’t let it disappear,” Blue said. 

“Not on our watch,” Williams responded. 

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Blue started at the museum in 2009 and moved into the executive director spot in 2015. 

Blue, takes great pride in her family name and being a descendant of the Marler family, who were some of the first to call Destin home. 

“I worked 7 to 5 for 13 years,” she said at the museum, which was open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. 

Every morning when she arrived at the museum, she would go to the back and say, “good morning, everybody.” 

“I was talking to the people … our history, our pictures and ancestors on the walls. I did it every morning,” she said. 

Once the doors were open to the public, she was ready and knowledgeable about everything Destin and everything the museum holds. 

“I loved sharing what makes Destin so special, not only to the locals but the visitors. The visitors just eat up Destin history. They just light up when they see everything,” Blue said. 

The museum is chock full of fish mounts of most every species that the fishermen of Destin catch from blue marlin to red snapper and everything in between. It also holds the history of the founding families and the history of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. 

Dave Fraser, museum volunteer, shows off his certificate he recieved at the luncheon. Fraser has put in more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service at the museum.

“It’s been such a great thing to be able to share that. I think one of the biggest things is being in the position to gather and save the stuff,” Blue said. 

“Every time an elderly person passes away, a huge library is gone,” she said. 

Prior to coming to the museum, Blue taught school for 31 years at Destin Elementary, where she once attended as a child.

While teaching, she worked at Harbor Docks Restaurant at night. 

But her first job was at the age of 14. 

“I worked at the White Wilson Clinic. I was a chart runner and an aide in the emergency room,” she said. 

The Destin History and Fishing Museum volunteers and board members enjoyed a luncheon at Dewey Destin's on the harbor on Wednesday.

“I’ve worked all my life,” the 71-year-old said. 

But after the stroke, she realized it was time to slow down. 

“I’m finally starting to feel like I can go forward” and get back into a routine, Blue said. 

Blue had nothing but kind words to say about Williams, her successor. 

“I think she and Tara (board president) are an incredible team,” Blue said. 

“She’s young, she has the degree background and her internships have been at museums. I’m just tickled to death,” Blue said to pass the torch to Williams.