By Maddy Vitale
Sea Isle resident Eva Feeley is enjoying her retirement.
But she likes to say she isn’t really retired. She has a job, and an important one at that.
She is the “chairtaker.”
“I walk on the Promenade every day and at 49th Street I noticed a chair. For weeks I walked by it and it didn’t seem anyone was coming for it,” Feeley said. “I thought to myself, I am going to put it to good use. It was around Halloween. I bought a scarecrow decoration and set it on the chair.”
The chair became an overnight hit with people strolling along the Promenade.
“Every time a holiday comes around, I change the decorations,” she explained.
It isn’t just decorated on the holidays. When the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, Feeley adorned the chair, which she alternately refers to as “the chair” and “he,” with laminated articles about the Eagles.
The chair even has a Facebook following, Feeley noted.
But this fun venture was not perceived as such, it seems, by the city’s Department of Public Works. Feeley was told the chair would be removed by July 3.
“I am not sure what the reason was, but I agreed it would be removed,” Feeley said.
And so again, the chair was decorated. Only this time, with a message that it would no longer be on the Promenade for passersby to view.
People responded on Feeley’s Facebook page that they were disappointed because the chair made them smile every time they passed by, Feeley said.
“The response was really entertaining to me. People said, ‘So, you’re the person who decorates the chair,’” she explained. “They said, ‘You don’t know how many times the chair makes me smile.’”
That was when Sea Isle Mayor Lenny Desiderio stepped in.
The mayor was going to use his authority to grant “a pardon.”
And he did.
“The chair was pardoned,” Desiderio said in jest. “I couldn’t let the chair go away. It is a local thing. It is a wacky, local tradition.”
Feeley said she was overjoyed that the mayor granted the “pardon.”
She said she was pleased, not just because she has fun decorating the chair, but because it has signified something larger in this family-oriented, quaint, shore community.
“I have heard people say, ‘I’ll meet you at the chair,’” she said. “It has become an actual destination in Sea Isle. It went from being a rusty, old chair, to having an identity.”
In a handwritten note dated June 26, Feeley thanks the mayor. The message also says, “Thank you Mayor and all of those who advocated for the chair.”
Just this week Feeley received a text from a resident that the chair was damaged. She thinks it probably was someone playing a prank.
“In all the months it has been up there no one has messed with it and it has gone through the storms,” she noted.
The fact that someone notified her is a testament to how important the chair has become to the locals, she said.
“The frame was damaged. My son Bernie bent the frame back. A lot of people said maybe we should start a 24-hour watch,” Feeley said with a chuckle.
As for her husband, Sea Isle City Councilman J.B. Feeley, he often laughs about her new-found passion.
“He is happy if I’m happy,” she said.
Feeley, who formerly worked in human resources for the city, teaches creative writing at local venues, including libraries, in her spare time.
She said, “the chair” has had a “journey.”
“This chair, from the beginning, was a metaphor for life. It was abandoned, then it was accepted into a town,” Feeley said. “Now he has a person taking care of him.”