‘Stay Curious About the World!’

Reflections of an Adventurous First Nations Supporter

First Nations is grateful to philanthropist Jenifer Marx of Indialantic, Florida, who donates to many projects and Native causes.

Some people were born for a life of adventure. Jenifer Marx is one of those fortunate few. She grew up in Armonk, New York, “a tiny, little, wonderful town,” she recalls. Her early days as an explorer of life began in the vast forest near her home. “My happiest times as a child were when I was alone in the woods.” It was not unusual for the young girl to find remnants of homes dating back to the 1600s. Or a musket ball from the Revolutionary War. “My brothers and I even found several flint arrowheads.”

Jenifer graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, the oldest women’s college in the nation, where she studied English and Italian literature. Even her double major foretold the worldly travels that awaited her.

They began in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy invited Jenifer to join one of the first cohorts of Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines. At 21, she was the youngest of the bunch. In her first year, she taught English to the children of sugar cane workers and fishermen on Negros Island for $50/month. “I was assigned to a little school on a cliff overlooking the sea, with mountains rearing up behind it. I loved every minute of it.”

A lover of history, Jenifer has written and co-authored nonfiction books on pirates, gold, and shipwrecks.

It is a difficult task to summarize in this short piece the rich details, twists of fate, and marvelous trajectories that marked Jenifer’s life so many decades after the Peace Corps. It reads like a novel, and perhaps one day will be, possibly written by Jenifer, herself, who―oh, yeah―is also an accomplished author of historical books on pirates and gold, such as, “Pirates and Privateers of the Caribbean,” and “The Magic of Gold.”

On May Day, Jenifer turns 84 and shares with First Nations a journey that has added up to some beautiful and blessed math: three daughters, four grandchildren, nearly 50 years with Bob Marx, the “love of her life,” innumerable countries lived in, fluency in five languages (English, Italian, “good” Spanish, “fair” French, and Bahasa Indonesia), and 55 years as a resident in the one-square-mile of Indialantic, Florida―37 years of that in an old Spanish home built in 1927, 100 yards from the beach. “It’s just heaven,” she says.

First Nations is grateful to Jenifer for her generous donations over the years to its many projects, “where needed,” she says. “I care about preserving the Native culture. It is really important to me.”

Her life with Robert F. Marx

In 1970, Jenifer married Robert F. Marx, a world-renowned underwater archaeologist celebrated for his discoveries of more than 5,000 shipwrecks in 60+ countries.

In 1970, this philanthropic citizen of the world turned up a few notches her already adventurous life and married her second husband, Robert F. Marx, a marine archaeologist and pioneering scuba diver. Marx is renowned for his underwater excavations and discoveries of more than 5,000 shipwrecks in 60+ countries, according to multiple online sources.

Over the years, the couple and their three daughters lived all over the world in some of the most exotic places, such as Jamaica, Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Bahamas, and Nova Scotia―usually close to an ocean, Robert’s pop-up home office.

Not only did Jenifer write books of her own, capturing the imagination of readers through real-life accounts of buccaneers and the lure of gold throughout history, but also, she co-authored more than 30 books with her husband on buried treasures and shipwrecks. Their collaborative works include titles such as, “Treasures Lost at Sea” and “The Search for Sunken Treasure: Exploring the World’s Great Shipwrecks.”

Robert F. Marx passed away on July 4, 2019, from an extended illness. “He was a Marine who fought in the Korean War, and I KNOW he chose that special day to die,” shares Jenifer. “I am so grateful and blessed to have been part of his life.”

Marx, who had 250 stitches in his arm from a shark bite, told his wife lightheartedly one day that when he died, he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes tossed in the ocean “so the sharks could finish the job.”

The First Nations donor has lived in Indialantic, Florida, for 55 years, 100 yards from the beach.

Jenifer tells First Nations that his wish has been granted. Family and friends have spread his ashes in numerous oceans across the globe, such as the China Sea, and the Atlantic, Arctic, and Indian Oceans. “They are everywhere,” she says―a fitting tribute to the life of a celebrated man of the sea.

Her passion for Native causes

When her husband died, Jenifer says she began looking into new charitable causes to support. “I wanted to give to areas that were meaningful to me and the rest of my family.”

So, the history buff went back in time. She recalls hearing stories about her great-grandfather, who was a captain in the U.S. cavalry stationed in the Southwest. “He wrote hundreds of letters to his wife and talked extensively about Native Americans. According to family lore, he was a great friend to the Indians,” says Jenifer.

Her parents, both editors at Reader’s Digest magazine, also had an affinity for Native Americans. “Before I came along, my parents spent a lot of time in the Southwest studying the Hopi and Navajo people. And the Mayan culture in Guatemala, too.” Jenifer says she grew up hearing all about their great adventures within Indigenous communities. She also witnessed firsthand the marginalization of the Mi’kmaq people when she lived in Canada with Bob and her young daughters, which she says was “heartbreaking.”

In her search for philanthropic causes related to Native Americans, the lifelong researcher discovered First Nations Development Institute. “I love the programs and the overall mission. I feel very connected to the causes,” she says ― particularly the Stewarding Native Lands project. “Our country is at fault for so many things, historically. Giving a little money to First Nations is my way of helping. I know that good work is being done.”

A University of Florida Master Gardener, Jenifer is known in her small community for her lush, one-acre garden of fruit trees, native plants, and colorful hibiscus where she hosts charitable fundraisers.

A friend to nature and the land

The young girl from long ago who loved the outdoors and exploring the woods of her childhood has not strayed too far from home. Today, she is a University of Florida Master Gardener who spends much of her time tending to her one-acre garden filled with mango, limequat, avocado, and elderberry trees, tropical foliage, native plants, and colorful hibiscus flowers. “It goes from one street to the other,” she describes her expansive, scenic garden.

The neighborhood peacock, Big Blue, is a frequent visitor to Jenifer’s home and garden.

Even the wildlife is impressed. Occasionally, the resident peacock known to the neighborhood as “Big Blue” will fly in for a stroll.

In April, Jenifer is hosting a fundraiser in her lush garden to raise funds for abused dogs, cats, and “the occasional hedgehog.” This apple does not fall far from the giving tree. Jenifer’s father was a member of the Urban League; and her mother volunteered for the Red Cross and sat on the school board.

Like her community-minded parents, Jenifer understands the importance of being a good neighbor and a contributing citizen in her own community of Indialantic. Other causes she is passionate about include foster kids in transition, underserved African American communities, and educating others about endangered pollinators, like birds, bees, bats, and butterflies. “We just had a Pollinator Fair and well over 2,000 people attended.”

As Jenifer reflects on her journey, she shares the secret to a life well-lived: “Just keep busy and care for others. And stay curious about the world!”

And what does this adventurous donor want to be remembered for? “I want to be known as a loving wife, mother, and friend. I want to give more than I take. But it is really about the earth and taking care of the planet while we are here.”