Group honors memory of Ventnor attorney by helping arts students

Our Lady Star of the Sea students Jessica Giordano, 9, of Atlantic City, gets help from classmate Sanai Bonds, 9, of Pleasantville, playing one of four pianos donated to the school by the Marty Wilson Jr. Art & Music Foundation, Inc.

Marty Wilson Jr. packed a lot of giving into a relatively short life. His extended family has continued his work through a foundation that supports arts and music education in Atlantic County.

A native of Atlantic City, born and raised in the Ducktown section, Wilson became a lawyer and remained active in his community. He married Kathryn "Tiny" Molinari in December 1969 and settled in Ventnor, where they raised three children, Kathryn, Martin and Meredith. He coached the girls' softball team in the Ventnor City League, where Kathryn played, attended Martin's basketball games and Meredith's musical recitals.

"I can still picture him wearing a three-pieces suit, standing out there coaching softball," said his sister, Ellen Eccles of Atlantic City, a member of the Marty Wilson Jr. Arts and Music Foundation. When he died in 1993 at age 47, Eccles said 5,000 people attended the funeral.

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Today the group honors Wilson with an annual scholarship to a high school graduate or college student from Atlantic County studying the arts, including culinary arts, Eccles said. They also give grants to public and private schools to help pay for supplies or fund an arts project.

Most recently they purchased a keyboard for Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Atlantic City. Four instruments the foundation had previously purchased were lost due to Hurricane Sandy. The foundation also pays for musician Johnny D'Angelo, of Ventnor, to teach the students, and has funded artist Charles Bessman, of Pleasantville, to work with students on murals at the school.

Sister Shamus Zehrer, principal of the school, said they don't have designated art and music teachers, so the grants help give the students the experience of working with professionals.

The foundation board includes family and friends who grew up together in Atlantic City.

"We've been friends since kindergarten," RoseMary Kau-keano, of Atlantic City, said of Eccles. "We lived on the same street and knew the whole family."

Foundation President Nancy Marzolino, of Galloway Township, Wilson's cousin said they have also provided grants for arts projects at Atlantic City High School and some of the elementary schools in Atlantic City.

Another cousin, Joseph Chialastri, of Margate, chairs the scholarship committee. He said this year they plan to raise the scholarship amount to $1,500 and possibly award two. Chialastri said they are looking for someone who is talented, but is also active in their community, and gives time to a cause.

"We want them to show they are part of their community," he said, someone who takes after Wilson.

"Marty was 14 years older than me, and I always looked to him as someone to learn from," Chialastri said. "This is such a nice tribute to his legacy."

(Information on the foundation, its scholarship and grants is on the foundation web site at, or email Scholarship applications are due June 4.)

Contact Diane D'Amico:


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