Rosa A. Delgado is a front desk representative at the Marriott Surf Watch. When I visited the elegant sun drenched lobby, I watched her sparkly eyes and dark winged eyebrows lift in enthusiasm as she talked to a customer. Her vivacious professionalism has won a wall full of service awards; but it is her behind-the-scenes caring that has earned her the affectionate title "Mama Rosa" by her colleagues.
When I first ask about her nickname she answers in a rush. "I love my job and I am very caring with everybody and I love to celebrate so I am always cooking and baking for people's birthdays (she keeps a calendar) or when they are leaving. People love my empanadas (she makes 40-50 at a time so everyone gets one) and girlfriend, I have the best recipe for New York cheesecake from scratch." She pauses for a breath (me too). "The people here are like my family and if I have an enemy may God love and bless them."
Rosa Delgado is so energetic and her low voice is so warm and personal it is impossible not to be drawn in. It is easy to see why her family extends beyond her own three daughters: Giselle (31); Rosalie (28); and Crystal (24); and eight grandchildren. She was born in Chicago, but moved back to her parents' native Puerto Rico as a child. She says, "I always tell people I was made in Puerto Rico but born in the USA." She married when she was 17 and had her first daughter at age18. Her husband left her when she was 26.
Rosa spent the next 15 years getting her GED and a diploma in cosmetology. She worked as a hairdresser and as an assistant manager for Sally Beauty Supply. She moved from New York to Connecticut to New Jersey, working to support her daughters. At one point, there was a fire and she lost everything. In 2001, she lost her job and had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. She recuperated at her sister's house in Tampa, Florida. Her life was about to change.
On December 28, 2003, Rosa took a bus trip from her sister's home to visit her brother in New York for New Year's Eve. At the time, Rosa was a single mother in her early 40s. Romance was the last thing on her mind. There was only one seat left on the bus. She had lots of bags. A nice gentleman convinced her that if she waited for the next bus, he could sit with her and help her with her bags. Exactly five years later, to the day, on December 28, 2008, Rosa married this nice gentleman, Carlos Delgado, not the baseball player she is quick to add.
"I never forget that bus ride. I was wearing blue pleated capri pants and a blue flannel shirt and black slip-on clogs and no makeup, but later he told me, 'You looked so natural and beautiful I fell in love right then.'" Rosa's dark eyes are shining. "He's a keeper.oh I love my husband."
For two years after that bus deposited Carlos in Savannah and Rosa continued to New York they didn't see each other. Their courtship consisted of phone calls-every night at 10 p.m. In 2005 he sent her a ticket to come to Hilton Head Island and visit him for Valentine's Day. This was their first reunion since the bus trip. "I was so nervous I was like a young teenage girl on her first date." It obviously worked. Shortly after visiting him, Rosa moved to the Lowcountry. Carlos was a pool technician for Marriott. Rosa started on the front desk at Marriott Surf Watch in 2007. Their wedding took place on the beach in front of Surf Watch, just as she had always dreamed.
Rosa talks about her family, her children, her husband, and her work with such an overflowing heart, it is hard to imagine her childhood and past were what she calls a "bleak time." "I know this life can be hard. You only live once. God wants us to forgive and forget and love everybody. My life is so good now. I kiss my husband every night and say we can sleep in heaven tonight. I just want things to be better for my daughters and for these young people. I want their lives to be good. I care so much."
Spoken like a loving "Mama Rosa."
Awards: Five top Marriott service awards since 2007; Out of 40 people, Rosa has 383 overall customer service points-next highest score is 27.
Food Favorites: Carlos cooks seafood dishes-lobster, conch, octopus; Rosa cooks rice with pigeon peas, pinto bean stew, and spaghetti with chicken.
Driving Miss Rosa: She got her permit and first driver's license on Hilton Head at age 43!