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Daily Pilot

An island of love stories

By Jeremiah Dobruck

9:26 PM PST, February 15, 2014

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Valentine's Day didn't end Friday on Balboa Island.

On Saturday, about a dozen love letters were taped to the windows of a small cottage tucked just across the island's bridge on Marine Avenue in Newport Beach.

The building houses the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society, and through the weekend, docents are collecting stories like the one that belongs to Summer and Dennis Brees.

According to their letter, the two met 28 years ago on the island when Summer's car broke down on the ferry and was pushed onto Agate Avenue.

As she tells it, "Just then, I was flagged down by a cute boy on his balcony offering to give me some assistance."

Within a few years, the two were married and have since raised twins on the island.

Their story, like the others submitted through the weekend, will be preserved at the museum.

"On Balboa Island, you celebrate life," said Sharon Lambert, explaining part of the philosophy behind the museum where she's a board member and docent.

The museum was founded in 2000, and Lambert said this weekend's event leads into their larger plan of documenting the island that saw its first development in 1906.

"This is a little bit of a kickoff to something much more," she said.

The historical society holds the goal of recording the history of every home on the island — about 1,440 in all.

Staff know that number partially because curator Tina Wayt has taken pictures of each and every home.

Now she and Lambert are looking for more volunteers to interview each home's occupants and learn as much as they can about the houses' histories.

Wayt, a volunteer like everyone else at the museum, said the intimacy of the island is one thing they want to capture.

Decades ago she was married in her parent's Balboa Island back yard. Their neighbor, a judge, performed the ceremony.

That tight-knit community still exists, Wayt said. It's not odd for her neighbor to call in the morning in need of something like a couple of eggs. Wayt has a habit of reaching out the window with the eggs in a butterfly net to pass them into her neighbor's window just a few feet away — a feature of the densely-built island that forces some togetherness — she said.

"Because it is such a unique and special place, we want to preserve it," she said.

More information about the museum is available at balboaislandmuseum.org.