Jackson County

‘Katharine Hepburn’ of Pascagoula came from Bermuda

Marilyn Chenoweth Zuill, born in 1927 in Bermuda, lived in Pascagoula for more than 55 years.
Marilyn Chenoweth Zuill, born in 1927 in Bermuda, lived in Pascagoula for more than 55 years.

Marilyn Chenoweth Zuill had an air of sophistication about her.

She was comfortable with famous people and never met a stranger, but she also was interested in everyone she met. She had a way of giving you her attention that was attractive. She had a great spirit and attitude.

Zuill died peacefully last week at the age of 89, and people have been calling Richard Chenoweth from all over, sharing their memories of his mother.

She arrived in Pascagoula decades ago with her children, fleeing Cuba when Fidel Castro began nationalizing.

In later years, she was hostess at her son’s popular restaurant, Scranton’s. Others knew her while they were growing up in Pascagoula in the 1960s and 1970s.

“She was like Katharine Hepburn showed up in Pascagoula,” said Stan Flint, marketing specialist and lobbyist from Pasacagoula. “She arrived here from Bermuda sophisticated.”

He remembers her as the Phi Kappa chapter mother for the high school fraternity. She was eventually a national mom for the fraternity for years, he said, but what he is most grateful for was her open way with young adults.

“She had a house we could come to,” he said, “day or night, she was there for us. If we were in trouble, she was there.”

Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey was in that age group. He said she was fun to be around and she kept kids out of trouble.

“Always positive, with a vibrant personality,” Harkey said. “She treated us like we were adults, more than what most adults did. And whatever was going on, she was part of it.”

She had deep roots in Bermuda, which was the place to be in the 1940s and 1950s. She was on the party list and met a lot of famous people there. She met more stars when she moved to Cuba.

She would strike up a conversation with anyone, her son said.

“She’d be talking with someone by the pool at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a famous night spot and casino, and it would turn out to be Cesar Romero,” Richard Chenoweth said.

Her parents kept a home in Bermuda until the 1970s and that’s where Richard learned to fish and row.

She was glamorous

He remembers her as glamorous.

“You knew when my mom walked into the room,” he said.

She was very British and kept on her four children — her son and three daughters — about their manners and speech.

She ran in high circles, but she didn’t prejudge anyone, her son said.

“People loved her,” he said. “She attracted people like a magnet. She was interested in what you did and what you were about. “She had an amazing vocabulary and could read a novel a day.”

Marilyn Chenoweth smoked for 74 years.

She outlived two doctors who told her she’d have to quit smoking, her son said, “and when I told her she’d have to quit smoking at the hostess station at Scranton’s, she said, ‘Well, I guess it’s time for me to go home.’ ”

She didn’t die of cancer. She died of old age.

Richard said his mother kept her great attitude and sharp memory right up until the last 12 hours of her life.

Kacee Hawkins, one of Zuill’s daughters, was with her and said, “She was ready. It was a peaceful, beautiful and painless death.”