Phyllis Duus had a house in Brigantine for 63 years, so she was used to lots of summer company.
But here’s the difference between her and most beach-house hostesses: Her company often didn’t leave when summer did.
Phyllis, who died last month at 94, was married to Harry Duus from 1938 until he died in 1997. By her count, she and Harry spent just two of those years living alone, or with only their four kids. The rest of the time, somebody else lived with them.
Both of Harry’s parents did before they died — his mother in 1946, his dad in 1962. Also in 1962, Phyllis’ parents, Nick and Hazel Anthony, had to move to Brigantine when their Atlantic City home was destroyed by the March Northeaster. They also lived at the Duus home until they died, Hazel in 1964 and Nick in 1978.
Harry was an only child, but “he married her whole family,” says Pat Duus, 58, the youngest of her parents’ kids, who lives in Morris County and Brigantine.
Her list of her parents’ long-term guests — including Pat herself as an adult, and her son, Brian — is long and involved. But here are a few highlights:
In World War II, Phyllis’ sister, Kay, and her husband, Tom Heckman, lived at the Duus home in Wilmington, Del., for Tom’s shipyard job. For the oldest Heckman child, now Phyllis Morris, 74, of Somers Point, that was one of two extended stays at her aunt’s.
Morris went to nursing school in Delaware, and was a regular visitor for years on weekends, holidays and at dinner time. She was even welcome to bring friends along — “And she already had a full house,” Morris marvels.
The Duus family got to Brigantine in 1948, after Harry’s father, Henry, bought two adjoining bayfront lots. One became Harry and Phyllis’ house — and Henry’s, of course. The other, he sold to Phyllis’ sister, Hazel, and her husband, George Conover, and their four kids.
Brigantine was the summer Duus house until Harry retired in 1976. And when they moved to the shore for good, they had new, long-term company.
Pat Duus was 19 and not married when she had a son in 1974. She had to live in Philadelphia and North Jersey for work, but was back in Brigantine every weekend and vacation. Brian didn’t leave Brigantine until college — and he returned every summer then, and a few after, to be a lifeguard.
Next door, he had cousins — three Conover grandchildren — who felt more like siblings, says Brian, now a lawyer in California. Things got especially close when the Conovers had to rebuild their home. Sure, everyone moved in with Harry and Phyllis for a few years.
“I was always raised with, the more people around, the better,” Brian says, remembering just one life lesson he learned from his grandmother.
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