Few people have been as involved with Tri for a Cure as Jean Ginn Marvin, Innkeeper at the Nonantum Resort. From Tri for a Cure’s very inception, through the trials of the COVID epidemic and to its 2021 season, Jean has been active as both a participant and as a successful fundraiser for this important cause.
As a native Mainer, Jean is highly involved in the community: she serves on the board of Southern Maine Community College, plays brass with the Casco Bay Wind Symphony, and was even a representative with the Maine House of Representatives.
Athlete, business owner, musician, and Tri for a Cure supporter . . . what an amazing Renaissance woman! We’re honored to feature her in Maine Women Magazine and celebrate the great work she does.
How did you get involved with Tri for a Cure?
I’ve been involved right from the beginning, 13 years ago. Julie Marchese had this idea of having a triathlon. So, she got a group of friends together, and we trained and went down to Webster, Massachusetts, to look at, and be in, a triathlon that Danskin sponsored. None of us had ever seen a triathlon even, but we were in it. We had a really fun time.
In terms of having a triathlon back here in Maine, we thought that maybe we would have a 100 people, we could talk to our friends, and get maybe a 100 people to be in this triathlon to raise a little money for Maine Cancer. Julie just talked to a few of her friends, and we said, “Yeah, sure, whatever.” Never in a million years would we have dreamed that things would go like they did. It’s been such a thrill to watch this thing just take off like a rocket.
It really speaks to how a group of women getting together can make something happen. Each person would say, “Oh, well I know somebody there. I could talk to them and see if we could do something.” It brought out all the connections we had within the community.
I sit on the board of Southern Maine Community College (SMCC). And so that was part of it, when we were making a decision of where do we have this? I said, “I think we should do it at SMCC. It would be fabulous.” I introduced Julie to the president of SMCC at the time, and they were off to the races. Now the community college is a huge proponent of this race, and they open their doors to us every summer.
What do you like about the Tri for a Cure triathlon?
I mean, it’s a wild day. You can’t imagine there are this many people in all of Maine! It feels like they are all there.
One thing I really like about the Tri for a Cure is that it is an event that welcomes non-athletes to become an athlete for a day. I mean, somebody like me, I would have never thought I could be in a triathlon. And yet I’ve been in all 13, and my times get better each year. Usually, as you age, you get slower. I had never competitively swam or competitively ridden a bike, so I had no idea how to do those things. I’ve worked on my own skills and become a better athlete because of it. But even if you’re near the back of the pack, it’s still a thrilling event to be part of.
When you see the people, the line of the people who are in this event, you see people of all ages, all shapes, and sizes doing it. If somebody falls on their bike or something, 10 people stop to help that person up. It isn’t like they go whizzing by him because they’re trying to beat them in the race. That isn’t what it’s about. You can compete with yourself to try to get a better time, but at the end of the day, it’s about supporting each other.
There is just such a great vibe throughout the event of support and care for each other. And I mean, everybody knows somebody who’s been impacted by cancer. It’s easy to raise money for this event because people know that the money is going straight to Maine Cancer Foundation. So they’re willing to support. I’ve been in the top 20 fundraisers, I think pretty much every year, just because my friends are willing to support that cause.
I was fortunate to be asked in, and it just has been so special to me. I mean, that’s a big part of my summer. Every summer there is triathlon weekend. My niece comes in from Arizona to do the race with me. The person I work with, who I share an office with, she does it, and her family all come in, and we always have a big party afterwards. I really missed it last year.
Can you please tell a bit about your work life?
Yes, I run the Nonantum Resort, which is located in Kennebunkport. We’ve opened, and this our 137th season. We have 109 rooms, and we have four food outlets. We do 70 weddings a season and numerous birthday parties, conferences, family reunions, fundraisers. It’s a busy place. It’s located on the water, right on Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport. Our family has owned the resort for about 30 years.
How did your family come to be the owners?
My father was a real estate developer and investor. He invested in the property, and the person who owned it ended up going bankrupt. So, my father ended up with the property. I was in the Maine legislature at the time. He asked me to go to the resort in the summer and help out because the legislature doesn’t work in the summer. As soon as I got there, I knew that it was where I was meant to be. So, I didn’t run for re-election the next term. And I’ve been at the Nonantum ever since, for 23 years.
What stands out about the resort to you? What attracts people to it?
I think the thing that sets the Nonantum apart is that we have the same people work year after year. We have a very robust onboarding process when we hire people. Many similar places, it’s kind of like, “Here’s your shirt, get to work.” We have a lot of training that happens before they ever have a day at the Nonantum. And you become part of our family. The Nonantum family is a really tight group. We take care of each other and work well together. Last summer, for example, the director of sales, the director of group sales, the general manager, and myself were the hosts and hostesses of the dining room the entire summer.
A lot of our people couldn’t work, either because they didn’t have childcare, or they couldn’t work because they were scared of the virus. So, like I said, we had a pared-down staff, only 60 of us, and we all wore different hats. We’d be cleaning rooms in the day, working in the dining room at night, and just doing whatever had to be done to get the job done.
You build a certain rapport with people when you’re working under those kinds of circumstances. But even before the pandemic happened, we had a very special relationship among ourselves. We all love hospitality. We love meeting new people, talking to new people.
The general manager is a woman named Tina Hewett-Gordon. I think having two women running this hotel makes it much more maternal. We take good care of our people, we’re both mothers, and we know what it’s like to have to balance a household. Tina also does the Tri for a Cure.
We know that if things aren’t good at home, you’re not going to be able to give what you need work. So, we make sure that people get to family activities. We make sure that they’re not over-scheduled. And if you could only work one day a week, well, then we schedule you one day a week.
Your life ebbs and flows with the ages of your children, or maybe you have elderly parents, or all kinds of things can happen in people’s lives that make it so they can’t work as much or make it so they want to work a lot. We schedule around that. That’s one of the great things about hospitality—we’re a 24/7 business. We can come up with a new scheduling plan if what you got isn’t working for you.
So, we work together. And I mean, the general manager and I had daughters who were similar ages, and they spent many a day on the floor of our office, coloring or whatever, while we were working around them.
During the past year, I think also we really realized the importance of the Nonantum family and how we work together. I mean, it’s just a remarkable situation, the way that people take care of each other and how we work together. And I think that the pandemic only strengthened those bonds.
I have such admiration for you, using that humane, family-friendly approach, of “we’ll work things out, as long as we all get the job done.” Now, do you have entertainment for the guests?
We have a lot of music and entertainment, like Jim Ciampi and Don Pride. Sometimes in the evenings, we have a guy who does singing by a campfire, four nights a week. And we also, Sunday afternoons have singing by the pool. I started college as a music major, so music is something that’s really important to me. I love having live music at the hotel, and we do pretty much every day.
Did you grow up in Maine? What has your background been?
Yes, I grew up in Cape Elizabeth. I went to Cape Elizabeth high school, graduated from there. Then I went to a school in Michigan called Interlochen Arts Academy. It is a fine art boarding school. I went there to study music. From there, I went to Syracuse University, and I ended up with a degree in political science, a degree in policy studies. Then my family ended up in a moving company. I worked in the moving business for Allied Van Lines. And then I went for the legislature, then I went to the Nonantum.
Along the way, I married one of my college friends. I was also a trombone major when I started, and so was he. We met my freshman year of college. We’ve been married 39 years now. And we have three children and three grandchildren, with a fourth due in June.
Neither one of us was particularly active with our music, but this past year, he and I decided to do 25 days of Christmas carols. On Facebook, every day for the first 25 days of December, we played a different Christmas Carol—trombone duets, and we also both play this instrument called a euphonium, which is a tenor tuba. Some days, we did trombone, some days we did euphonium, and some days one of us did one and went to the other. We called it the Bob and Jean show because his name is Bob Marvin. Since then, we’ve done other holidays. So, now we are playing again. We don’t practice as much as we should, but it’s fine.
Do you work all year round?
I’m a Sugarloaf girl, so I go skiing on the weekends, but yes, I still work all winter. Some of us work year-round, like the people who work in physical plant because they paint rooms while there aren’t people around, the marketing people, and the wedding people because they plan events. We plan all winter, and then we execute plans all summer.