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In The Limelight

Marsha Mood

Interview by Teresa Nguyen

October, 2019

“I plan to continue learning and improving. I really want to be the best photographer I can be!” ~ Marsha Mood

Career & Photography 

Retired Special Education Teacher and Paraprofessional

Rotary Botanical Gardens Photographer
Rotary Botanical Gardens Annual Calendar Curator
Rotary Botanical Gardens 2013 Calendar Award Winning Photo
Channel 3 Calendar Award Winning Photo

Cover Photo of Forward Janesville's Community Profile & Membership Directory - 2016-2017 

Award Winning Photo for Blackhawk Technical College Calendar - 2017

Several Photos Chosen for Brava magazine - June, 2017
Winning Photo in "Tiny Treasures" contest for the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association - 2018

Winning Photo - Wisconsin Public Television's airwaves magazine - February, 2019

Several Photos for Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Marketing
Community Volunteer

To see more of Marsha's photography visit Marsha Mood Photography.

The Early Years

The Early Years


I grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, right near Creston Park on Hawthorne Avenue. It was a wonderful home, just a three-bedroom ranch, but a nice house. My dad had it built and actually he built the garage with a little help.

I remember him telling me how he was up on a ladder when I was just a toddler running around the base of the ladder and he had to call my mother to come and get me because I was making him nervous.

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Young Marsha (right) with sister, Anne
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Marsha's father, Sanford Meisel, in his clothing store, The Hub, on W. Milwaukee St.

My mom and dad were really wonderful people to have as parents. My father owned a men’s clothing store called The Hub, which was at 212 West Milwaukee Street. That building was torn down in the mid-seventies, but it was right next door to O’Riley and Conway's, where the parking lot is now.


When I was a child, I used to go down and help out at the store for Carnival Days, where he had his merchandise out on the sidewalk. I got to help sell things. Everything was 5 or 10 dollars and I would have to make change. Sometimes I helped him with inventory, which he did every December. I thought that was really fun. He’d show me how to make hash marks as he would count the white shirts or whatever it was on the shelf.

I have one younger sister, Anne. We spent a lot of time together and I don’t know what I would do without my sister!

Some of my childhood memories are going to Girl Scouts activities. I had some great leaders who encouraged me. I remember sewing a doll outfit that was put on display somewhere. So that was fun to be in Girl Scouts. There were a lot of nice girls there.

Ice skating at Goose Island was always so fun in winter! I remember going to friends’ houses to play and participating in the summer recreation programs. Each school in the district had a summer program and games to play.

We took family trips; I remember one to Montreal and another to Denver…and we had a car with no air conditioning! 




At Adams Elementary, I had some terrific teachers I looked up to and I remember the principals were great role models. One was Ms. Goss and the other was Dr. Cook. He was a very nice man. There was a sixth grade teacher, who I remember quite well, Mr. Duane Kamla. He was a very nice teacher. ​

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The Meisel family: Anne, Betty, Sanford and Marsha

For middle school I went to Marshall Junior High on Main Street. I met all kinds of different kids and remember “walking the halls” at school, around and around, carrying our books and saying hi to friends.

At one point, I was in the split school, where the Craig group attended in the morning and Parker came in the afternoon. After that, Parker opened.

I went to Craig and got involved in drama, which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t particularly talented, but enjoyed being around those kids in drama who were! We did a production prior to Fiddler on the Roof called Tevya’s Stories, which was by Shalom Aleichem. I played the daughter, Hodel. But it wasn’t a musical, just the story and a play. I still have the booklet. 

I was also the Exchange Editor of our school newspaper, which meant that I sent our paper to all the other high schools in the area. It was enjoyable, and I didn’t mind not being responsible for writing a story, but liked being involved. Then I would pick up the papers from the other high schools and bring them to our work room so we could read them. It was kind of neat, if you think about it, that this was our ‘social media’ before the internet!

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In 1969 I graduated. I had wanted to be a Psychologist. One of my uncle’s had some emotional health issues and I always felt badly about that. So, I wanted to help people through their problems. 

I attended UW Madison, which I loved. I had a lot of friends there. During freshman year I ran into a girl on Bascom Hill and we were talking.


I asked her, “What’s your major?” She said, “Behavioral Disabilities”, which later became known as Special Education. She explained how she was going to work with children with special needs. I thought that sounded like a great career, and close to psychology.


So, because of that girl, that’s when I switched to become a Special Education teacher. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t run into her!

Hummingbird - by Marsha Mood Photography

Career Life

I graduated in 1973 with a major in Behavioral Disabilities and my first job was at Glen Oaks School in Janesville, which was a school for children with special needs. Back at that time, there weren’t a lot of Special Ed students who were mainstreamed into regular education. It was a beautiful place. Currently, that building is the Rock County Health Department out on Highway 51. 

The kids really had fun in my class. I had a little classroom of 8 students who were quite intellectually challenged. I loved every minute of it. 


Then there was an Early Childhood Special Ed opening at LaPrairie School. I really loved that, too.

After that, I returned to school at UW Whitewater to get my master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education, which I really, really loved. In 1975, I took a job teaching at Rock County Handicapped Children’s Education Board, which Glen Oaks was under, as well as CESA 2.

I left there and went to teach in the Beloit Turner School District until I became pregnant with my oldest in 1981. Just before my son, Michael, was born in 1982, I resigned from my position and stayed home. It wasn’t until Michael was about 8 and my daughter, Jen, was about 6 that I returned to work.

Daisies - by Marsha Mood Photography

I worked at Harrison Elementary as a paraprofessional with Early Childhood Special Ed students who were mainstreamed in the regular classroom. I got to work with Paula DeRubeis and Mary Bowen, who were wonderful teachers!

My children were attending Monroe Elementary and I took a position there as a Special Education Aide. Later I became Kelly Stengel’s Special Education Aide the first year she taught.

For my last eight years, I worked at Janesville Community Daycare Center in what was called an inclusion program. I was responsible for about 5 or 6 students who were in the regular classroom and I co-taught with one of the regular ed teachers. I really loved that, too.

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The challenges in this field were in knowing exactly what would be the best for each individual child. We had to do an Individual Education Program (IEP) for each child, and you always hoped you were doing the best you could do. There were students who occasionally had behavior issues and I always wanted to deal with that the best way I knew how, so I could help them. 

The rewards were in working with the families and parents. Sometimes, when these children came to me, it was their first encounter being in a school. I’m sure it was scary for many of these kids. I tried to be empathetic. The parents all loved their kids so much and wanted the best for them. It made me want to do the best I could to help them make progress. I enjoyed watching their progress, knowing I had a small part in it.


I remember trying to teach a little boy how to use stacking cups for sensory awareness. Finally, he got it! I enjoyed other challenges, like when I worked with a little boy who was visually impaired, as well as another who had hearing impairments. 

I loved every minute of it! Now I am still in touch with a few families and see those kids doing well. That makes me happy.

In January of 2008, I was able to retire. It’s worked very well for me.

Obelisks with White Lights, Award Winning Photo -  by Marsha Mood Photography


Back in 1973, one of my coworkers at Glen Oaks told me about a really nice swim coach, named Alan Mood, down at the Y. My friend encouraged me to see him. So, before we went on our blind date, I went to take a look at him from the balcony at the Y. I thought to myself, “Oh, he’s pretty cute.” We had our first date and were married six months later!

We’ve been married 45 years in October. It’s gone by fast! 

We have two wonderful children, Michael and Jen. They’re the lights of my life. They’re each married with children. I try to be a good mother-in-law and not your stereotypical type. Michael and his wife, Jenna, have four boys. Jen and her husband, Max, have two girls. They’re close by and I get to see them a lot, which is wonderful! We take vacations with them, too.

Niagara Falls was my favorite trip. Jen, Max and the girls ziplined over the falls! We’ve been up to Door County, to South Dakota and the Badlands. We have family in the Denver/Boulder area of Colorado, so we love going there, too. 

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Alan and Marsha Mood
Winning Photo for the RBG 2013 Calendar
Winning Photo for the Rotary Botanical Gardens 2013 Calendar Contest - Pine Branch - by Marsha Mood Photography


I used to do counted cross stitch. I did about 25 or 30 projects for people who were having babies in the family. That was one of my hobbies. And I had always enjoyed photography and used to take a lot of pictures and put them in albums and scrapbooks. 

Then, in 2012, my teacher friend, Mary Richards, told me about a photography group on Facebook, like a photography tutorial project. I had just a point and shoot at the time. So, the goal was to take a photo every day of the year, the 365 Project, with themes every week to help the photographer learn different techniques. I thought it sounded like fun and I was retired at the time, so why not?

Within a week of doing this, I bought my first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. 


I started coming to the gardens and posting my photos on Facebook. It evolved from there. I’d give my photos to the social media person at RBG and they would post them up. A lot has evolved since then and my RBG photos will be used for the entire 2020 calendar. It is my job to curate the calendar, decide the months and take care of the entire project. It’s super fun and I love it!

The JACVB (Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau) has also worked with me to use my Janesville photography, like photos of the Grand Prix Bike Race and others, for their tourism marketing. I love to share my pictures with the community and the people who appreciate them. I also enjoy doing Shutterfly scrapbooking.

This is my seventh summer of doing photography! I still don’t think of myself as talented, and I’ve not had formal training, other than a simple class. There’s still a lot I don’t know about taking pictures. I learn something new all the time, and that’s what’s really fun about it. Whenever I don’t know how to do something, I just go to YouTube! There are so many tutorials out there.

Then, I joined Janesville Art League. That was a turning point, when I started to take my work more seriously. Now I do some exhibits and have a little area at Raven’s Wish where I sell some of my photography prints and cards. I also have a few paintings there. 

About two years ago, I took a class from Barbara Mathews and started watercolor paintings. I found it to be so enjoyable, and something I could do when there wasn’t a lot to photograph in the winter months. 

As far as contests go, I’ve entered a few and won for a Blackhawk Technical College calendar, a Channel 3 calendar and won “Honorable Mention” in a state contest, as well as a Beloit award which was for The Beloit Incubator, now the Beloit Art Center.

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Photo featured in Brava magazine (June, 2017) Japanese Garden - by Marsha Mood Photography

In the Rotary Botanical Gardens gift shop, you can find my note cards, magnets, postcards and some prints. 

My favorite things to photograph are the sweet faces of my grandchildren! I also love macro shots of flowers, getting up close, finding a butterfly or a bee on a flower. I love the challenge of taking pictures of yellow flowers. They’re difficult to get just right for some reason. Those are my favorite things.

Being around the flowers at Rotary Botanical Gardens really makes me happy. It’s just so beautiful there with the tall Cottonwood trees.


And I feel a real connection to Dr. Yahr, who created the gardens. He was my orthodontist! He’s such a friendly, nice man. I saw him the other day sitting on a bench at RBG. He’s 91 now! 

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Marsha Mood's Photo in the BHCCU 2017 Calendar
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Japanese Bridge - by Marsha Mood Photography
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Award winning photo for Wisconsin Public Television's Airwaves Magazine (February, 2019) - by Marsha Mood Photography

I feel very honored to be a volunteer photographer for the Rotary Botanical Gardens. At the gardens I’ve also enjoyed teaching a photography class called Gardening Photography for Beginners. That’s all I can handle! It’s a two-session class, two hours each session.


I’ve taught it a few years in a row now. It’s teaching basic techniques. We stay together the first night, and the second night they can split up in the gardens and I’m there for consultation. 

I love sharing my passion. I call myself an “avid amateur”.


I feel that being involved at the Rotary Botanical Gardens is my way of contributing to the community. Lately, I’ve enjoy taking photos of downtown Janesville, too, like The Bubbler, the river and other locations.

When GM left, everyone was very concerned about what would happen to our community. Now, I think we’re stronger and better, and hopefully welcoming. I think things have really improved. The downtown is coming back!


My father’s store closed in 1984. He died in 2002, but he always said, “The downtown will come back.” I think he would love what’s going on today!

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Palmer Park - by Marsha Mood Photography

I admire Mark Freitag and think he’s done a wonderful job leading our community for the past several years and he has a lot of great ideas. Our leadership, in general, has been good. Downtown Janesville, Inc. is bringing a lot of positive things to the area. Soon we’ll have the BHCCU Legacy Center in the old Chase Bank! I feel very positive about the whole community.


I’m one of those people that sees things on the positive side, the glass is half full. 

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Monarch on a Prairie Blazing Star - by Marsha Mood Photography


It’s hard for me to be completely objective, because I’ve lived here my whole life. I love going into Woodman’s and seeing people I know. Anywhere you go, you meet friends…kind of like the Cheers theme song, “Where everybody knows your name.” I appreciate that.


My late sister-in-law, Maureen Mood, was such a wonderful mother to her five children. She was influential in how I raised my children. 

I’ve met a lot of people who inspire me. I’m motivated by friends who are photographers.


And I’m inspired by the Rotary Botanical Gardens volunteers, who do so much!


I’ve met a lot of people who inspire me. I’m motivated by friends who are photographers. And I’m inspired by the Rotary Botanical Gardens volunteers, who do so much!

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Bee - by Marsha Mood Photography
Rotary Botanical Gardens Holiday Light Show - by Marsha Mood Photography

What’s Next

I hope to stay healthy long enough to continue to enjoy my grandchildren and see them grow up. Of course, I hope to continue to take photos. My photography hobby is a bit addictive! And I plan to continue learning and improving.


I really want to be the best photographer I can be!

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Marsha and Alan's growing family:  Front Row-L. to R.: Abraham, Simon, Zeke, Penny, and Abby ~ Back Row-L. to R.: Michael holding Jonah, Jenna, Alan, Marsha, Jen, and Max
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Cana Lily - by Marsha Mood Photography
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