Sally and John Plungis at Barnegat Lighthouse, 2006

By Diane Stulga

Aunt Sal was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on September 23, 1924. Throughout her 92 years, she had an overwhelming passion for the Jersey Shore. Deeply connected to the place she loved, it was a part of her heart and soul. Aunt Sal always had her toes in the sand, the wind in her beautiful hair, and that Jersey devilish twinkle in her eyes.

In the 1960s her husband John’s work led to a transfer to Ohio. Aunt Sal was not happy about the change. In her Jersey Girl way, she said the Ohio Chamber of Commerce never answered her inquiry about the beaches in Ohio. She came back home to New Jersey every chance she could. She took annual trips with her husband and kids to visit the girls she had grown up with. It was here she relived those memories of footprints made in the sand and her Jersey shore roots planted all those years ago.

During World War II, Aunt Sal was a telephone operator during the week. But come every Thursday night she would pack her suitcase and with a couple of girlfriends, head “down the shore” for the weekend. She was very funny, laughed a lot and joked around even more. She had a priceless Jersey girl sarcasm and sense of humor. Aunt Sal always spoke her mind, loved a good time and had a totally Jersey sense of style and flair. She had the ability to strike up conversations with strangers, and when the conversations ended, strangers walked away as friends. Aunt Sal was a vivacious Jersey Girl who enjoyed pizza, beer served with ice, going out for seafood dinner, a good Margarita or two, the theatre, and music of all kinds. Revisiting the shore kept her connected to the years she spent in the place she loved. She enjoyed sharing her most treasured memories of the New Jersey shore. Walking along the beaches, seeing sunrises and sunsets, and breathing in the clean fresh air were what kept her going throughout her many years. She loved to sit on the beach and watch the waves for hours on end. I believe you can take a girl out of Jersey, but a true Jersey Girl will remain a Jersey girl forever.

When Aunt Sal was diagnosed with terminal cancer her final wishes were simple – a Catholic funeral and to be cremated. She wanted her ashes scattered over the Atlantic Ocean to become an eternal part of those ebb and flow tides she rode all her life here at the Jersey shore. We honored her wishes this past September on her 93rd birthday. Aunt Sal is now forever a part of her beloved Jersey Shore.

I once read, “If you’re in love with a Jersey Girl raise your glass. If you’re not, raise your standards.” For me, that anonymous quote captures Aunt Sal’s wit, humor, and outlook on life. So, here’s to you Aunt Sal. We love you and miss you every day. As we drive from Barnegat Lighthouse to Holgate and all the beaches in between, we remember your footprints in the sand. You will be our Jersey girl forever.

Dedicated to Sally Plungis.

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