As quick as she was to raise her hand to salute, Marie Louise Love, was even quicker to lean in for a hug.
Nicknamed "Sarge" for her time in the military and "Lou" for Louise, she left an impression on everyone she met.
Many say their visit to the Senior Center won't be the same without Sarge Lou's friendly conversations about her life as a professional singer, time in the Women's Army Corps, and her huge collection of colorful hats.
One couldn't scoot past the front door without a greeting from Love.
"Who could look at an American Flag and not think of Lou? Who could look at collection of stuffed animals and not think of Lou? Who could look at color coordinated clothes which always included matching earrings and a hat and not think of Lou?," Sue Frank, Senior Center Supervisor, said on Wednesday.
Marie Louise Love, 90, died on Aug. 8, 2012. Love leaves behind an older sister, Jane Meck, 97, in California.
One week later, friends said goodbye to Love and shared memories and stories of her at a Celebration of Life Ceremony at the Gulfport Senior Center.
"She had one hell of a life," Dianne Norris said.
"She was over 90 and had over 100 songs in her heard that she knew by memory. That's how I'm going to remember her, her smile, her hat and wonderful voice," Carol Ehrenkranz said.
On more than one occasion Love recalled her life and her journey to anyone with a minute to spare and willing to listen. Love warmed your heart with her presence and made you laugh with her honesty.
In May 2011, Love shared key memories she had made with Patch. Hear from Love in her own words below.
Love grew up singing in her church's senior choir in Pittsburgh in the 1930's, she then worked as a page girl for a bank in town and became engaged to a man she had known for many years. But, she never married.
He didn't return home from the war, losing his life in Germany.
"He was a lovely, lovely man," Love told Patch during an interview last spring.
In 1943, Love joined the war effort and enlisted on her 21st birthday in 1943. She spent three years with the Women's Army Corps, and eventually became a supply sergeant at Fort Sill.
"We were there so the men could be relieved and go off to battle," Love said.
Love was proud to be an American and proud of her service.
"When you think about it, this country was based on people who sacrificed their lives for freedom," she says. “Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought,” she said.
After the war, she joined a little opera company in New York City. She used her G.I Bill benefits to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., earning a degree in interior design. Although she intended to return to the Army, she landed a job working for the city of New York.
“I designed interior rooms at airports,” she said. “It was a very good job.”
One theme was clear throughout Love's life, her love to give back. She continued to volunteer upon moving to Gulfport and even after retirement.
"She was a sweetheart. I know she's volunteering right now," Lorraine Del Bene said.
Love worked at the front desk of the Senior Center, helped with the parties and festivals and even, unofficially, manned the fitness center.
"She'd always come into the exersice room and command attention," Joyce McMahan said with a smile.
No doubt, those she touched will miss Love. She lived an inspiring life, made lasting impressions and left behind an extended family in Gulfport.
"She was a beautiful person," Donna Denis said.
Marie Louise Love on Patch