Nestled unsuspectingly in back of Hemingway’s Key West abode are a bookstore and the offices for the Hemingway Home and Museum. Converted from what was originally a former carriage house is now optimum office space in the capable hands of Jacque Sands, General Manager and Accountant, an understated title for someone who “keeps the books” for one of the world’s premier writer of books.
Jacque, a self-proclaimed “military brat” has lived all over the world before dropping anchor in Key West. She was born where the Steelers, not the Starfish, are all the rave … Pittsburgh!
But, her upbringing wasn’t restricted to the Northeast manufacturing hub. Her father signed up for the Navy and she began globe trotting as a tot, moving from Guam, Bermuda, Panama Canal Zone, Hawaii, and most naval bases in the continental United States.
“I was 19 when I first came to Key West,” recalls Jacque. “In the 60’s, I worked for the Navy Exchange System at the Truman Annex and worked my way up to manager. Back in the 60’s, military and fishing consumed the Conch way of life here. To me, the island is still a simplistic paradise.”
Fittingly, after high school graduation in 1963, she married a military man. The couple welcomed their oldest daughter, Kim in San Diego.
“Kim is an honorary, a saltwater Conch,” she says still dismayed about the latitudes and longitudes of the family’s whereabouts at the time of birth. “My younger daughter, Ashli, was born here. I made sure of it.”
During her initial stint at the Hemingway Home in the early 90’s, Jacque began learning about the property.
Thanks to Bernice Dickson, visitors can experience where Hemingway lived (1931-1961) and wore out many #2 pencils… plugging away at his literary masterpieces. Dickson, an astute businesswoman and owner of Key West’s famed Beachcomber Jewelry, purchased the property from the Hemingway estate for $80,000 by sealed bid in 1961, the same year Papa died. According to Sands, Dickson adored Hemingway’s work and was intending to make his house hers! Then, instead, opted to secure a National Historical Landmark designation (1968).
Dickson passed away in the late 80’s. The Hemingway property was willed to her sisters and nieces. The property is legally titled – 907 Whitehead Street Corporation, dba (doing business as) Hemingway Home and Museum.
After three years, Jacque jetted off to the Northwest, to live by relatives in Yelm, Washington. But, she soon swapped the Pacific for the comfort of the Caribbean and returned to work at the Hemingway Home in 2000.
As she puts it, “I have been here since and plan to be here until I die.”
Jacque’s daughter Kim and her two grandchildren live in the Keys. “Ashli lives in Manhattan. Hopefully, she’ll be back in the Keys this year. She’s engaged to a man from Florida she met in New York.”
Jacque doesn’t have much free time, logging long hours at the Hemingway Home. She does manage to maintain a slot in her schedule for meditation, yoga, and showing some love to the H20. “I enjoy the water and boating with my family,” she says with sunshine in her voice. “When I leave work on Friday and go to my hide-away on Little Torch Key, I don’t return until Monday.”
As for pets, she has two cats, but they are not Polydactyls, or mitten kittens; such as those found at the Hemingway home. Curiosity killed the cat, but… just in case you’re wondering … the most often purchased reads at the Hemingway Home & Museum bookstore are: To Have and Have Not, The Old Man and the Sea, and Hemingway’s Complete Short Stories.
Having an expansive world view, due to her military upbringing and marriage, Jacque is a firm believer in One Human Family
, and feels the Key West motto is one people everywhere should embrace.
“That’s the way we are here. Our philosophy is that you are who you are and be who you want to be,” and with that she’s back plugging away at her books.