Domenico Marino’s life started in southern Italy and ended in North Philadelphia. In between came a stop at a coffee plantation in Brazil, where he was an indentured laborer. Basically, he did the work left behind by the country’s freshly freed slaves, but signing on for two years of that job was his ticket to the new world.
His grandson, born Dominick Marino, started his life in an apartment two floors up from a bakery in South Philadelphia and finished it living just off the beach in Longport. In between came a career as a lawyer in Philadelphia — and a term in the prestigious position of head of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
“Everyone in our family was very proud of the fact that when Don became (Bar Association) chancellor ... there was only one intervening generation between him being chancellor and .... (his namesake) being a replacement for a slave,” said his younger brother, Tony Marino, of Egg Harbor Township.
By the time he died of heart disease last month, at 74, the lawyer grandson had changed his name from Dominick to Donald — for professional reasons, to make it sound a bit less Italian, his brother said. But he did that well before he got into his profession.
“My brother, long before he started high school, said he was going to become a lawyer,” Tony remembers. “He started St. Joe’s Prep (in Philadelphia) as Dominick C. Marino, and by the time he graduated, he was Donald C. Marino. ... He was Dom as kid, and all the neighborhood guys had to adjust later in life to calling him Don.”
The Marino family — including Domenico, the patriarch who moved to this side of the Atlantic Ocean — moved from a South Philadelphia apartment to a home they bought on North Broad Street in 1945. And a few years later, they started visiting Ocean City to spend one summer week every year in a little apartment at 10th Street and Asbury Avenue, Tony says.
Those family vacations in Ocean City’s then-Italian neighborhood also started a lifetime of loving the shore for Don Marino. He and his wife, Vinnie — short for Vincenta — and their son, Justin, now of Egg Harbor Township, always took summer vacations in Ocean City or Sea Isle City. But then they found Longport, and 20 years ago, they bought a condo by the beach.
“We spent every weekend here, winter, spring, summer and fall,” she said, “and when he retired ... we moved down full-time. Don loved the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere here.”
But he put in 45 years of hard lawyering before he retired in 2008. He graduated from Temple University’s Law School in 1963, then went to work in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office — where a friend and mentor was the then-D.A., Arlen Specter, on his way to a long career in the U.S. Senate.
Don went from there to opening a solo private practice, and when he was elected head of the Bar Association in 1984, his family says he was the first lawyer with his own practice to win the position.
“Mainly the chancellors came from the big law firms, and he wasn’t in a big firm,” his wife said.
And in the 1970s and ’80s, “my brother was best known as a high-profile defense attorney for mobsters of Italian descent,” Tony Marino said.
That’s where Don met and worked with Edwin Jacobs Jr., an Atlantic City-based lawyer who also defended many alleged organized crime figures in Philadelphia and South Jersey.
“Don was very professional, very polished — a real gentleman attorney,” Jacobs said. “I can’t ever remember seeing him get ruffled. And he was smart, a good role model for the rest of us. ... He was kind of like the lawyer you always wanted to grow up to be, if you had the discipline and self-control.”
Although he represented accused mobsters, one mob boss reportedly put Don Marino on a hit list. The lawyer apparently angered the boss by representing a mobster who was testifying against the boss. The hit was never carried out.
Don went from mobsters to medical malpractice, and then ended his career working for Philadelphia again — in charge of litigation for the city’s law department.
Then he retired, moved to the shore and enjoyed life, including being a regular in Ozzie’s Luncheonette in Longport and Ventura’s Greenhouse, a few blocks away in Margate, his brother said. He also wanted to be closer to his son and Justin’s family, including Don and Vinnie’s young grandchildren, Gianna and Justin.
“He was fully retired,” Tony says, “and he got to spend a few years just being grandfather.”
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