Has there ever been a better advertisement for making seafood a key part of your diet than Capt. Keith Marden celebrating his 100th birthday today at the Wellesley restaurant bearing his family name? Though on this day, a special birthday cake for the Captain courtesy of Select Board member Beth Sullivan Woods was the food of choice (well, and the chowder and shrimp cocktail also offered to guests).
Marden, seated next to his wife of 69 years, Shirley, blew out all of the less-than-100 candles, and was serenaded with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Saluting Marden’s years in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War as a submarine periscope specialist, “Anchors Aweigh” also played. Marden was surrounded by family—including all the way from his home province of Nova Scotia—and friends, including town officials and fellow business people.
Everyone piled in for photo opps.
I had a chance to chat with the Captain and asked him what job he might have done if he hadn’t gone into the seafood business. The longtime Wellesley resident mentioned having attended trade school to train as a machinist. As a member of the media, it warmed my heart to find he had a paper route as a kid.
Ceremony emcee Royall Switzler of the Wellesley Celebrations Committee called Keith Marden his hero for this reason: “He was behind the counter until 2 years ago!” That point was re-emphasized in the proclamation read by Sullivan Woods, which notes he was behind the counter as recently as 2020 “selecting the perfect seafood for his customers.”
In speaking to one of Capt. Marden’s granddaughters, I learned that in fact there is no blood oath within the family to work for the business, now on its fourth generation. It’s true: Some members of the family work in fields ranging from finance to politics and from insurance to education.
But plenty do work for the business, which includes the familiar seafood shop and restaurant on Linden Street, as well as the wholesale business in Westwood.
Captain Marden’s fish market got its start in 1945 in West Newton by Master Mariner Capt. Roy Marden, Keith’s dad. Keith opened a second location on Forest Street in Wellesley in 1959, then in 1972 moved it to the former Linden Street railroad station building and expanded. The Captain’s Takeaway Restaurant, initially a takeout operation, opened in 1975 adjacent to the fish market. The wholesale division operating out of the Wellesley store outgrew that space and moved to Westwood. And then there’s the Cod Squad mobile food truck, which began wheeling around in 2012. In recent years, Capt. Marden’s has agilely navigated the pandemic, as members of the family explained in a 2020 Wellesley Public Media video.
The Marden family has been celebrated in town not just for the signature business, but for contributions to Wellesley, its youth organizations and local charities. Keith Marden was a Little League coach, a local bank director, a longtime Wellesley Club member, and a town assessor. The Wellesley Historical Society recognized Captain Marden and family at its 2015 Spring Celebration.
Meanwhile, at the adjacent seafood market, it was business as usual, though customers broke into smiles when told Capt. Marden was celebrating his 100th birthday next door.