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Grace Greco Giunta | 1915-2010

Grace Greco Giunta, inventor and altruist, dies

DAVIS ISLANDS — When friends stopped by Grace Giunta's home, she wouldn't immediately offer them coffee, a cocktail or something to eat.

Instead, Mrs. Giunta proffered something she called "vitalizer."

"That was usually the first thing she'd say," her daughter-in-law, Gloria Giunta recalled recently. "She'd say 'How's your vitalizer? Do you have enough? Do you need more?' "

Mrs. Giunta was talking about Peau du Jeune Skin Vitalizer, a product she developed and sold in a local supermarket chain and through the mail. It was essentially a net that people used as a washcloth to remove dead skin, packaged together with a fragrant moisturizing soap. Such products are common now, but Peau de Jeune came many years before the rest.

"She thought she had discovered the secret to staying young," her daughter-in-law said. "And this was decades before people started talking about removing dead skin."

Mrs. Giunta was still youthful and active into her 90s. She died from natural causes on March 20 at age 94.

"The doctor said she was like an old car," Gloria Giunta said. "As soon as you fixed one thing, something else broke. She got a good laugh out of that, that he compared her to an old car."

Mrs. Giunta was born in Tampa to immigrant parents. She spent her youth in a home behind the family's grocery store, Greco's Master Market in Belmont Heights.

Later, her father and his brothers opened a larger store called Big Barn Food Center on Broadway between 40th and 50th streets. Mrs. Giunta worked in the office of Big Barn, which in the early 1960s became Kash n' Karry, one of the area's largest supermarket chains.

She continued to work at Kash n' Karry — alongside her husband, Frank, who had left a career in banking to work for the chain — until the Greco family sold the business in the early 1970s.

Her husband died in 1988.

"She never stopped missing him," Gloria Giunta said. "She'd always say, 'I wish Frank were here.' "

Mrs. Giunta sold Peau de Jeune initially at Kash n' Karry. After the family sold the chain, she continued to sell the products though mail orders. She always kept a large supply at home to offer to family and friends who stopped by.

People often commented about how young she looked. But her spirit was just as youthful as her complexion.

She had a passion for live music and theater. She attended Florida Orchestra concerts regularly and always had the best seats for Broadway shows at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (now the Straz Center). The Phantom of the Opera was perhaps her favorite show. She saw it many times, and she'd often buy seats as gifts for her friends.

She kept attending shows regularly until just a few years ago, when the years started catching up with her. She also kept up a full schedule of philanthropic work, supporting organizations from the orchestra and the performing arts center to the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge.

Besides being an entrepreneur, an altruist and a mother of two, Mrs. Giunta was famous for her German chocolate cake. She baked it often, but it never seemed to last long enough to suit her family and friends.

"My father-in-law loved that cake," Gloria Giunta said. "He loved it so much that he'd take a little piece of it and eat it on cracker just to make it last a little longer."

Mrs. Giunta is survived by two children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at mclear@tamabay.rr.com.

Grace Greco Giunta, inventor and altruist, dies 03/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 5:19pm]
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