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64 years of dancing, singing, and family

On regular outings down the Shore, the family rides bicycles, walks on the beach, and, when there’s the strum of a string band in the air, struts down the boardwalk.

Jim and Marge with their daughters at another family member's 80th birthday party. From left to right: MaryBeth, Colleen, Jim, Marge, Kristin and Karen
Jim and Marge with their daughters at another family member's 80th birthday party. From left to right: MaryBeth, Colleen, Jim, Marge, Kristin and KarenRead moreCourtesy of the Family

Marguerite and James E. Bradley

Marge, her sisters, and a cousin were having a grand time at the dance when the announcer proclaimed the next song “ladies’ choice.”

“There were these four guys standing around. The cutest one I didn’t ask, because he might have said no. So I go up to a friend of his,” Marge remembered. “After we danced, they all got a good look at me. Then he asked me to dance.”

He — the cutest one — was Jim. “I was aggravated because she asked the other guy,” Jim joked.

Jim had graduated from Northeast Catholic, had been drafted during the Korean War, and had recently returned from serving with the Army in Vienna. He worked at American Can, played fast-pitch softball with Flatiron, and lived with his Irish parents in Fishtown. Marge had graduated from Hallahan High School for Girls, was secretary for a vice president at Fidelity Bond and Mortgage, and lived with her Italian parents in South Philadelphia.

They danced the night they met to Bing Crosby’s “Easter Parade.”

“She was so pretty. And she liked to dance. And she was Italian,” which meant she was likely a good cook, said Jim, who was then 22.

“He was nice, always polite. He opened the car door for me all of the time, and was never mean,” said Marge, then 19.

Two more years of dancing, roller-skating, and other fun together passed. The couple was sitting together on the front step of Marge’s house when her mother opened the door behind them.

“Are you two ever going to get married?” Mrs. Yanetti wanted to know.

“I don’t know,” Jim said. He turned to Marge. “Do you want to get married?”

“Yes!” said Marge.

Six months later, on Sept. 28, 1957, they wed at St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church on Montrose Street. The young man that Marge had asked to dance during “ladies’ choice” was Jim’s best man. She had seven bridesmaids.

“In those days, everybody who got married had the same thing — beer and roast beef sandwiches — and that was it,” said Jim. And so it was at their reception for more than 300 family members, neighbors, and friends, held at the South Catholic High School for Boys at Seventh and Christian. The band played ‘50s music and swing. “They did a little chorus of ‘Easter Parade,’ ” noted Marge.

The couple honeymooned for 10 days in Lake Placid, N.Y., and for a week in the Poconos.

Everything for the family

The newlyweds lived on the third floor of Marge’s parents’ house until they could purchase one of their own. They later built a home in Clark, N.J., when Jim landed a new job there. Nine years later, he took a job as superintendent of the lithography department at Crown Cork & Seal Co., and the couple built a home in Holland, Bucks County, where they stayed when Jim became supervisor at Metal Litho International in Trenton, the job he retired from more than two decades ago.

Marge worked part time at a local library and then a chiropractor’s office, retiring when Jim did. But Jim’s long hours meant both could not work outside their home when their four girls — Colleen, Karen, Mary Beth, and Kristin — were small, and Marge stayed with them. The way the couple saw it, both were working their hardest to give the girls the best life possible.

They took the children to the zoo, to plays, and — every summer — to the Jersey Shore. They all played sports, so Jim coached softball and basketball.

In 1988, the couple bought a home in Ocean City, which became the center of summer family life for them, their daughters, and now, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. “That’s the happy times, when they all come down the Shore and we all have fun together,” said Marge. The rest of the family travels from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio to be with them. Since 1998, Ocean City has been the couple’s permanent address — aside from the winter month or two they spend in Florida.

On regular outings down the Shore, the family rides bicycles, walks on the beach, and, when there’s the strum of a string band in the air, struts down the boardwalk.

“I was born in South Philly, where everybody does the Mummers strut,” said Marge. “If I hear that music, I don’t care if anybody knows me or not, I have to start dancing.” Not all family members share her level of enthusiasm, she admits. “Jim tries to hide from me when I’m coming after him, but I grab all of my grandkids. Somebody’s got to carry this on!”

Stuck, but together

Jim, who is now 89, and Marge, now 86, made their winter pilgrimage to Florida in early 2020 intending to come home before Easter, as usual, but COVID-19 cases were then too high to travel. Their worried children begged them not to leave their condo for any reason and had necessities delivered or shipped. “We were worried about our kids, too,” said Marge.

A month later than planned, when case numbers dipped, the couple was back home in New Jersey. Marge called Jim over to a window, where they saw their children and grandchildren setting up chairs. “And then we were all outside, playing music and dancing and having a good time,” Marge said. Their family had surprised them for a combined celebration of Mother’s Day and their father’s birthday. They wore masks, and they couldn’t hug one another. Jim stepped away from the group, took off his mask, and, as he does at every party, sang. His wife really liked “Margie,” he said. “She went bananas!”

This year, the two made just one short trip to Florida in late fall — to cheer on granddaughter Morgan as she ran in the Palm Beach County marathon. They attend Mass every morning, and on their anniversary, their children and grandchildren joined them. The monsignor did a special blessing to honor their 64 years together, then everybody headed to the house in Ocean City.

Big plans are underway for Marge and Jim’s 65th anniversary next September, when the entire family will occupy two neighboring houses in North Carolina for a week of celebration.

Still in love, only more so

“Sixty-four years is a long time, so we must be doing something right,” Jim says. “We have fun together. We go to church, we walk on the boards every morning. We take cruises sometimes. She’s a great grandmother and a great mother. She’s still a great cook.”

Marge is grateful for extra time with Jim. “When he worked, he worked so very hard. He did it for our family. But now, we can be together a lot more. And he does such nice things for me all of the time,” she said. He does all the driving, for example. And he makes her laugh.

Often when it’s just the two at home, Marge turns on the radio or slips in a CD with cha-cha-worthy tunes. She never hesitates to ask the cutest guy she knows to dance. He always says yes.