"We've never been afraid of change when it comes to where and how we live," explains Linda Marion. Case in point: After starting married life in Bala Cynwyd, they built a contemporary home in Villanova. And that was fine for a decade.
"But one night, we were stuck in downtown Philadelphia in a snowstorm, and our daughter was alone at home. It took us hours to get back to her. And that's when I said to Arthur, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' "
When the Marions became urban pioneers, moving with their 10-year-old daughter (a son was already in college) to the then-new Independence Place, friends raised eyebrows. Why make such a move at that time?
"We both have pretty good instincts," says Arthur. "And we like change."
Throw into the mix the purchase in 1977 of a small condominium in the same Margate mid-rise where they live now.
"It was just a weekend place, and that's how we used it," says Linda, who, like her husband, had grown up loving the Jersey Shore.
But they learned by chance, back in 2006, that a unique condo a few floors above them was going up for sale. It was the building's most distinctive dwelling: The owner, a South Jersey restaurateur, had yoked together a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom unit next door to create a total space of more than 3,000 square feet, with a kitchen that was its dramatic centerpiece.
The day the couple learned of its possible availability, they went to see it and quickly snapped it up. This condo differed from almost any other in the building: handsome moldings; extravagant bathrooms; marble floors; and yes, that kitchen.
With cabinetry that resembles fine furniture, high-end appliances, and a dining area so large the Marions have a table that can easily seat 12, the kitchen and adjoining family room are truly the heart of the home. Not even a 2010 flood affecting the kitchen could do permanent damage.
"Even though it was a mess for weeks, we were able to replicate and replace the lower cabinets that had been destroyed," says Arthur. "It was great to finally be able to eat at home again."
"We've learned that this is where we feel the most relaxed and at peace," says Linda, a longtime breast-cancer survivor and tireless volunteer for various causes, including hospice organizations and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she served for years as a companion to children about to undergo surgery. "I found out early that when I had to write a speech, I did it my best thinking sitting by the ocean."
Another bonus of having three bedrooms and a superb kitchen: the Marions' adult son and daughter and their six grandchildren can easily be accommodated.
Granddaughter Melissa Fair, 15, of Lafayette Hill, was visiting recently, enjoying her doting grandparents and a wing that includes a bedroom and bath.
"I love coming here," says Melissa, who can alternate between teen privacy and togetherness.
Family is so central here that an entire wall in the spacious living room is devoted to a visual history of both Linda's and Arthur's kin. Old portraits and candids reflect the lives of the Fishman family (Linda's) and the Marion family for several generations.
"We look at these photos, and we see our whole past unfolding," says Arthur.
Linda's late mother had the collecting gene, and some of her beautiful accessories and antique cabinets mix artfully with the contemporary furniture. Along with the couple's own collection of pitchers, which rest on shelves and in kitchen nooks and crannies, are Linda's beloved factices, the often-oversized perfume display bottles used by department stores in decades past.
So conditioned are the Marions to a seashore mentality that now they greet Memorial Day with a bit of dread and quietly celebrate Labor Day, when Margate becomes a sleepy town again.
"The whole personality here changes, and we love it," Arthur says. He's on his bike, the beach, or a nearby golf course on September days, and Linda often enjoys life from a sprawling sectional sofa that invites reading and dreaming.
Arthur's roots are in West Philadelphia. But on those fall mornings when the breeze is brisk and the ocean playful, he almost forgets that, once, he was a city kid.
"I think I was meant to live a seashore life," he says. "And even though Florida's a nice place to be when it's cold, I'm like a little kid. I just can't wait to hit the Jersey beach again."