Anthony Massa had it all as a kid, and not just because he got to run free around the beach in Barnegat Light, N.J., every summer.
He lived the beach life with his grandparents Harry and Mary Selover, but he cherished that time for all kinds of reasons beyond the sunshine and sand.
Anthony is very much a product of that environment, and he is still a lifeguard to this day. He has the kind of carefree attitude that can only come from riding those waves and watching those sunsets. Through it all, Anthony was influenced by his grandparents to keep the little things in perspective.
The beach played its part, but Anthony would have cherished the time with his grandparents whether it was in New Jersey or Nebraska or North Dakota. The summers in Barnegat Light were a full family affair that was always made better by what the beach offered.
“The beach played a huge role,” Anthony said. “Not that we wouldn’t have shared all the time together anyway, but it was easy to gather because everybody in June, July and August wants to go to the beach. Everybody wanted to go see Grandma and Grandpop and do all the fun stuff outside in the summer.”
All those family gatherings changed and evolved as the grandchildren grew up, then went off to college and started their own lives. And as they started to happen less frequently, Harry and Mary made the call to sell the house.
The decision was difficult because the home was packed with years of memories, but change wasn’t hard to embrace in the long run. The transition helped people realize that the memories had more to do with each other than they did the house.
“They’re happy,” Anthony said. “It was nice for them to sit back and watch all the grandkids graduate from college and start careers. Some are young and just starting college and graduating high school.
“It wasn’t necessarily easy for them, but the transition wasn’t very difficult because they enjoyed watching us grow and become the people they hoped we would become. It helped that my cousins and siblings and all the family were raised very well. We are happy in life, which means we’re successful.”
Harry and Mary still have a boat in the water in Barnegat Light, and they spend most of their summers there living on it. They’ve been together and going strong for 65 years from the time they met at Rutgers University through building a family with children Lynn, Marc, Mary and John.
They stayed reasonable and made each other a priority from Day 1.
“They really complement each other well,” Anthony said. “I never saw my grandmother get stressed out or frustrated or angry or yelling. She is one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met in my life. They just genuinely love each other. They hold each other’s hands when they go out.
“A big part of that is the beach lifestyle, Time is going to go by no matter what. Do you want to enjoy it or be upset over things? They wanted to enjoy it. If you ever get upset over a small thing, go out and look at the ocean and say, ‘How lucky am I? Why am I getting upset over such a small thing?’”
That peace and easiness is part of the legacy that Harry and Mary continue to build. Anthony counts himself lucky for learning those lessons, which helped to mold him into who he is today.
“I’m very fortunate and appreciative of what they have done for me and what they have done for their family as a whole,” Anthony said. “My grandfather will talk to anybody, even if it’s the janitor from school or if it’s somebody the rest of the town might not want to talk to. He doesn’t care. He loves sharing experiences. That’s something that set in with me, treating everyone fairly and giving everyone an honest approach. That’s how they’ve been.
“I’m fortunate to have seen that and to learn by their example and learn how they are and what they instilled in us, whether they meant to or not. We’re lucky for the things they provided, the fun we had, the memories we created. They’re great people, and I’m very lucky to have them in my life.”