2011 Shore Issue: The Shore House

For more than 40 years, the Giuntas of West Chester have been going down the Shore together as a family. This time around, somebody crashed the party: our writer

SOME FAMILIES GO OUT to the Grand Canyon or Washington for summer vacation. Some don’t get together much at all. For the Giuntas, the dual comforts of family and routine are the annual prescription. It’s not as if they come from all corners of the earth. Only Mary and her husband, Dean, live outside the Philadelphia area (in New York), and the three boys all have houses within a mile of Len and Ann’s. But none would miss the week. “It’s not a command performance,” Ann tells me.

“No,” Len says. “It’s all volunteer. But because they enjoy it so much, they look forward to it. Believe it or not, even if they can’t make it, they usually do.”

“Someone will go to someplace else like the Outer Banks, and they always feel like they missed something here,” Carol Mehok, the oldest Giunta daughter, explains. Carol is a lively brunette with features from Ann’s Irish side of the family. She has four kids and is a business manager at Giunta Enterprises. At the Shore, she says, “You don’t have to worry about what to do next.”

Back at the house Saturday afternoon, the routine begins. Hit the beach, then the swimming pool. (The main house has one in the back.) Then dinner. There’s usually no TV during the day, no computers or video games. The grandchildren aren’t old enough to be obsessed with cell phones, and the adults manage to keep the checking of messages to a minimum.

By 4 p.m., Len is waist-deep in the ocean with grandkids Mark, Kaley and Luke. Tim Condon, Susie Giunta’s husband, has his niece, Emma (Mary and Dean’s girl), riding piggyback. Six women—Stacey, Kate, Jenna, Susie, Carol and Mary—are lined up in lounge chairs, glistening in the sun, trading pregnancy and delivery tips.

By five, there’s a crew at the pool. Andy is flipping nephews Richie, Luke and Sammy Forte (Jenna’s kids) into the water. Andy, who has a kind of friendly-neighborhood-Army-Ranger look, famously dislikes the beach. “I work in the sun all day—that’s enough,” he says. At a poolside patio table, Ann cradles the baby. Father Collins bums a potato chip off Alia.

“We’re confirmed for the 29th?” Matt asks Collins, who returns a sly, noncommittal look, just to give Matt a hard time. Of course he’ll be there to baptize the baby.

“He did our wedding, and he was on sabbatical in Belgium. We had to haul his ass back here,” Matt says.

“They did,” Collins confesses.

At seven, the family gathers inside and does what it does before the first dinner of every Shore week: celebrates Mass. Father leads in prayer; Andy and Tim do readings. They take Communion, and everyone shakes hands and hugs. Tim breaks out an eight-pound bag of tater tots, and soon burgers and hot dogs and ribs are flying. Around eight, Richie Forte, Jenna’s husband, whose family co-owns a mushroom farm in Kennett Square, arrives. To welcome him, the guys do a shot of Crown.