TAKE A GOOD LOOK at the lower right-hand corner of your driver’s license. Do you see the word “Donor” in tiny block letters? Whether or not a little red heart appears on yours, the fact that “Donor” is there at all is due to the efforts of the Legacy Donor Foundation (LDF), an organization whose impact many of us have felt, but may never have heard of — an organization to which Ansley Seaver Marshall is proud to give her time. In addition to her day job as a partner and Realtor at McEnery Residential (a 6-month-old boutique real estate brokerage) and as founder of the Ansley Marshall Group of Realtors, Marshall also is the chairwoman of LDF and a co-chair of its 2019 annual Soul Revival gala, which takes place at the Port of New Orleans March 16.
“There are so many noble causes in New Orleans, but to say that you are actually working for something that’s saving lives is a pretty amazing thing,” Marshall says. She quotes LDF Executive Director Nicole Labadot: “This is not a search for a cure — it is the cure.”
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Since its founding in 1999, the LDF has mounted marketing and public relations campaigns and educational outreach both solo and through partnerships with other Louisiana-based organizations to promote awareness of the need for organ, eye and tissue donations. The group’s partnership with Louisiana’s Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) alone has been meaningful: by including the option to become a registered organ donor in the sequence of registering for a driver’s license, the number of names on Louisiana’s donor registry has more than quadrupled, increasing from 450,000 to 2.6 million registered donors. Ninety-five percent of those registered did so through the OMV.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the LDF and its Soul Revival gala. Marshall is excited to be part of planning the pomp and circumstance that this year’s milestone event will bring. The party features entertainment by a gospel choir, a DJ and a band, and “we’re still working on a few surprises,” she says. “It will definitely feel new and different this year, and it will feel special for the 20th (anniversary). … We’re hoping to reach out to the generations that have pitched in already, but also the next generation of people who would like to get involved.”
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Before Marshall became a Realtor and a volunteer with LDF, before she was an attorney at Jones Walker law firm and before she went to law school, she graduated college and moved to Paris for a few months to learn some “life lessons,” she says. She spent her days taking in French art, architecture, history and culture, although she admits she never got a good grip on the language.
“I could read menus very well, but I would butcher the language, unfortunately,” she laughs.
After living abroad, she returned to New Orleans to attend the College of Law at Loyola University New Orleans.
“I wish I could have stayed (in Paris) longer, but the real world was beckoning me back with a very humbling job at a law firm,” Marshall says. “I came back with my new heels from Paris and I was the file clerk back in the ‘paper days.’ I was kneeling on the floor filing papers … but I loved it.”
After working a few years as an attorney and having her first child, she decided it was time for a career change. She went into real estate, which shares the same intensity and high stakes that she loved about practicing law, and hasn’t looked back.
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“I got my first real estate listing while I was in the hospital in labor with my second baby,” she says. “I should have known then that that is exactly what real estate is like — whenever you’re trying to do something really important, something will come up.”
Marshall’s real estate business keeps her busy, but her nonprofit work is just as essential. Even though she and the other LDF chairs still are hard at work organizing the group’s March gala, she’s already anticipating the LDF’s Fall in Love Luncheon in September, which features a fashion show starring models whose lives have been impacted by organ donation. Some models are living donors, some have received donated organs, and some are friends or family of organ recipients.
“Every story I hear really moves me,” Marshall says. “It really puts a human face to it … [and] puts your life into perspective.”
What’s your favorite thing about New Orleans in the spring? “I love that it’s porch weather. … I also love crawfish, and that Jazz Fest is coming.”
Favorite person or organization that you follow on social media? On Instagram, @legacydonor (Legacy Donor Foundation), @museumofwonder (“Father of Interwangleism” Butch Anthony), @jeremy.k.simien (New Orleans-based author, historian and preservationist Jeremy Simien) and others.
Favorite thing to cook? “I like to bake something for my family on Sundays, so they have something for the week, usually some sort of muffin or bread. I try to sneak in some healthy ingredients for my kids and hope they eat it, like a little flax sprinkled in. I call it ‘pixie dust.’”
Favorite ride at Storyland amusement park? “I like the Ferris wheel. In fact, the last time I was on it, we got stuck at the top, but it was amazing because we had the best view.”
Blue and white pottery — Marshall’s great-grandmother and grandmother were avid collectors. This piece is a gift from her mother.
Framed drawing by local artist Shelley Hesse — “She is probably one of the most quietly successful artists in New Orleans. I love that her work speaks for itself.”
Gilded alligator head — a gift from a real estate client
Mounted butterfly from taxidermy shop Deyrolle in Paris — “(Deyrolle) is one of the neatest places you could ever possibly go.”
Snake skeleton — a gift to her oldest daughter on her seventh birthday from Marshall’s mother. “We like having interesting curiosities all around the house.”
Drawing of nude figure — a gift from her mother. The drawing used to hang in her mother’s home, which flooded after Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures.
Vase (with flowers) in the shape of a woman’s body from Potence Collective on Magazine Street.