WILDWOOD – When Mary Jane Lowry was just weeks old, she spent her first summer at the Jersey Shore. Now 79, the North Philadelphia native has kept alive the tradition of vacationing in Wildwood with her family, children, and grandchildren each summer.

"I've always loved the sun and beach," Lowry said.

She recalled that a "dear friend, Mrs. Gross, had a house on Magnolia Avenue, and she invited our family to come for a visit every summer. When my dad retired, my parents moved to Florida, so they had the beach and the sun all the time.

"I kept coming back to Wildwood, staying at different places all around," she added.

When Lowry married, she and her first husband brought their three children to Wildwood. As each of them married, her middle daughter kept up the tradition, and the visit turned into a family vacation for everyone.

Lowry said they've stayed all over Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, depending on the size of the family that year.

"My husband died when I was 46 years old," she noted, "but my daughter still had me coming with them."

She said her children "have discovered the islands, Barbados, Jamaica, and others, so they've been going there. Last year and this year, my (second) husband and I came down on our own. I wanted to keep up the tradition."

Over the years, Lowry said there had been a lot of changes, including the "increase of prices, of course. The ocean gets further and further away," she quipped.

"The Boardwalk has changed a lot, and I really like all the greenery planted along the dunes. That always wasn't there." Lowry continued.

Driving around, she's noticed "nicer homes and condos have been built, and a lot of the run-down places are gone."

The Lowrys have their favorite places they visit each year, which include stopping for fudge at Douglass Fudge and eating at Mack's Pizza and the Crab House at Two Mile Landing. "Our first night is always dinner at Two Mile," she said, "and we never miss Mack's. We go to the beach every day the sun is shining."

Lowry said she and her husband like seeing places in the United States. They try to follow the Phillies baseball team and visit a different stadium each year. "This year we took a bus trip to Boston to see the Phillies play at Fenway (Park). I had always wanted to see that stadium."

"I had a caller tell me they've been coming to Wildwood for 50 years," said Jerry Kaye, owner of The Monaco Hotel, where the Lowrys stayed this year. "I said to her, 'Can I tell you something? I have a customer that's been coming for 79 years.' That's quite an accomplishment."

Lowry said she hopes to visit Wildwood again next summer when she plans to have a "huge party to celebrate my 80th birthday."

To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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