Marilyn Schmidt, publisher and owner of Buzby’s General Store, died on Tuesday just shy of her 90th birthday. Despite failing health, she still lived above the General Store until she was hospitalized Feb. 26.
Schmidt was a resident of Barnegat Light for most of her life and started the Barnegat Light Press, publishing popular cookbooks for local fish and sprinkling them with local lore. Schmidt started her second publishing company, the Pine Barrens Press, after moving to Chatsworth 20 years ago. Between the two she had self-published over 60 titles, most of them small booklets on cooking seafood and on Pinelands lore. “Good recipes, books on the Pines and gardening have been very popular; most have sold out, and I’ve reprinted a couple – pretty amazing for a one-person publishing firm,” she said during an interview with The SandPaper in 2017.
Schmidt never regretted moving to Chatsworth from Barnegat Light. She said she loved every minute of it – except for last year, which she spent in and out of the hospital. “Thank God for friends, and I have wonderful neighbors. I love living in the Pines. It’s so peaceful and quiet – except for the Cranberry Festival; that’s total chaos.
“It’s lovely country, and I’ve been well accepted. When I put out a booklet ‘Piney Talk,’ I was afraid I would offend the locals, but it was the opposite. They loved it!”
Her latest book was on the Clevenger family from Chatsworth, which created pressed glass and commemorative bottles.
Schmidt wholeheartedly restored the Wade-Buzby general store, built in 1865. Willis Jefferson Buzby bought it in 1894 with his wife, Kate, and family ran it until 1972. Schmidt purchased the store in 1997 when she was 70 and opened it with a café in 1999. She was able to get it on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Sites after taking classes at Burlington County College in historic architecture. “I had to learn a new ‘architecture’ vocabulary,so I worked and worked, and once I got it on the state registry, the national was easy because I had already done all the work.”
Jeanette Lloyd, Long Beach Island Historical Society member and historian with her late author-husband, John Bailey Lloyd, was sad to hear the news of Schmidt’s passing.
“I was introduced to Marilyn when she lived in Barnegat Light ,and John and her just clicked. When she moved to Chatsworth and bought Buzby’s General Store, we worried; we didn’t know if the locals would take to her. But they did, like a duck to water – they absolutely loved her.
“She helped so many local writers and historians. She was a natural born teacher, and she loved to share her knowledge,” said Lloyd.
“A group of us would go ‘Pine-ing’ about three or four times a year – Terry and Kathy O’Leary, Gretchen Coyle, Martha Kramer and Mia Maloney – and we would always stop at Buzby’s and have tea with Marilyn, and she would share her stories. And she was so knowledgeable. You would ask about Washington Tavern, and she would know everything about it.
“Her last project was researching all the gunning clubs in South Jersey, and she had a huge stack of research. I hope someone finishes the book for Marilyn.
“With her gentle manner and soft voice, she was the true voice of the pines.”
— Pat Johnson