“Well, isn’t that nice?”
That was 101-year old Mary Marino’s reaction, when she learned that she’ll be Grand Marshal of the Celebrate Northeast parade this year.
Marino, a well-known, popular personality on Central Avenue and in Northeast, had a front row seat for the parade for many years. When she was 62, her sons Jim and Louis Marino bought her a small restaurant at 22nd and Central Avenue and named it Marino’s. She did all the cooking and ordering. She worked there for 35 years, until she broke her hip in 2002.
In its heyday, she said, the restaurant did its part to take care of the people in the parade. “We used to feed the Northeast Royalty and the camera crew before the parade,” she said. (It was invitation only, and the meals were free.)
Marino said that through the years, she has watched some of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren march in the parade. Her daughter and son-in-law, Vicki and Ed Matthes, Jr., (who took over the ownership of Marino’s in 1971) rode in the parade after being named “Mr. and Mrs. Central Avenue” in the 1980s.
“It was the year they stopped having the carnival and fireworks after the parade,” Vicki Matthes recalled. “People were upset about it, and yelled, ˜Where’s the carnival?’ at us when we went by.”
Marino’s grandson Randy was a junior commodore 35 years ago, and her granddaughter, Michelle Matthes Swanson, was a queen candidate, who also played in the the Edison High School Band. She now marches every year with the Edison Alumni Band.
“I like the policeman’s band and the guy who marches with the baton,” Marino said. “I also like the floats, of course. And the music. I guess everybody knows I like music.”
She added, “It will be fun to be in the parade. I’ve always been on the sidelines. If I couldn’t be there, I’d watch it on television.”
The Northeast parade will be her second gig as a Grand Marshal; not too long ago, she held the honor at her church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel ”a few blocks from her home,” and rode in a convertible during the church’s annual procession.
Matthes said they will probably have to seat her mother (who in her younger days was barely five feet tall) on a couple of pillows so that parade goers will be able to see her in the back seat of a convertible. Marino said that when she goes to the hairdresser, they always have her sit on a pile of towels so she is high enough to lean back comfortably into the hair washing sink.
She said that last week, everywhere she went, people seemed to know that she was going to be the parade Grand Marshal. “I get more attention in my old age than I ever did in my youth,” she said.
Her daughters, Matthes and Jane Kibler, said their mother stays active, planting flowers for her garden, baking her famous pizzelle (thin Italian) cookies, and helping her grandson Eddie Matthes III in his catering business at the American Legion in Fridley. She also makes bread pudding for grandson Ralph Matthes’ deli (Marino’s Deli) on Johnson Street in Northeast.
Marino said in an Aug. 22, 2007 Northeaster interview (when she turned 100), that she has worked all of her life. After losing her mother at age five she ”as the oldest daughter in the family ”did much of the work in her father’s household after he married again. He had four children, the new wife had two, and together, they had seven more, which brought the total number of children to 13.
Marino started working in restaurants at age 15. Her first husband, Jim Donatelli, died after a tonsillectomy in 1925 after they were married just 10 months. Her second husband, Ralph Marino, died in 1944, leaving her with five children, four of them under age 12.
She learned German cooking from one of her employers and Italian cooking from Ralph Marino, and worked in two Italian restaurants downtown. She and a friend, Gen Gawronski, started a wedding catering business in the late 1950s. They stopped doing that when Marino’s opened in 1968.
In 1995, she was named to the Hall of Fame at the Midwest Food, Beverage, Lodging, Chefs and Equipment Expo, commemorating 50-plus years of service.
Marino has lived in Northeast since 1929 and has been a member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel since 1939. She has 10 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. A great-great-grandchild is expected in October.
“That’s getting pretty old, when you have a great-great-grandchild,” Marino said. “At my age, I can’t see too well, I can’t hear too well, and I can’t walk too well. But I still can raise hell.” (When she said that, her daughters agreed, laughing.)
So. Will Mary Marino be practicing her wave, for her big day at the parade? Maybe not so much.
“I’ll be blowing kisses,” she said with a smile.