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Mr. Domenic G. Giunta
1949 - 2004
A superhero, to no one's surprise
The man who helped save four children off Honeymoon Island had been helping people his whole life. In life, Domenic Giunta was the kind of person others might consider an everyday hero: a man devoted to his family, community and hard work, who never expected anything in return. The day he died, he was more like a superhero. Almost everyone in Tampa has heard the story by now. Mr. Giunta, who was known as Don to friends, was fishing at Honeymoon Island July 21 with his daughter, Sara. A woman and her four grandchildren were swimming in Hurricane Pass, the channel that separates Honeymoon and Caladesi islands. Mr. Giunta, 55, noticed the youngsters were struggling in the current. He and his daughter dove into the water to help them. In the end, all the children returned to land safely. But even though Mr. Giunta was a strong swimmer,
he was apparently exhausted from the rescue effort and strong current. In helping to save lives, he gave his own. Though shocked and grief-stricken, people who knew Mr. Giunta said they weren't surprised. "It would have surprised us more if he had come home and said he watched something like that happen and didn't try to help," said son Chris. It was especially fitting that he saved the lives of young people. Until he retired two years ago, Mr. Giunta spent his entire career working in Hillsborough County schools as a teacher and guidance counselor. "He was an easy-going, soft-spoken kind of guy," said his cousin Sam Giunta. "I think the students could really relate to him." As devoted as he was to his career and students, Mr. Giunta had other passions, too. He was raised in Ybor City, on and near the farm his family still runs. The farm was never the family's main source of income, but it was a multigenerational tradition. Mr. Giunta's grandfather
made his living from agriculture. It was also vital to the local Italian community. As supermarkets flourished and specialty wholesalers became more rare, the Giunta family farm was one of the few local sources for Italian vegetables. Mr. Giunta earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education from the University of South Florida and was teaching at Greco Junior High School when he met his future wife, a fellow teacher. Domenic and Peggy Giunta soon moved to Lutz and started a family. But he never gave up farming. He ran a 1-acre farm and delighted in teaching his children his agrarian skills. As Mr. Giunta's father became too old to care for the farm in Ybor City, the entire family pitched in. "He was a real family man," said son Domenic, who also goes by Don. "He loved the outdoors, and when we'd go on vacations, we'd go the Great Smoky Mountains and we'd go hiking together." He valued education and instilled that passion in his children. Even when he
reached middle age, he never lost his insatiable curiosity. One of the things he learned as an adult was beekeeping. Somewhere along the line, maybe while he was in college, he became fascinated with bees and began reading about them. He became a successful beekeeper the rest of his life. Despite his many interests (he also worked occasionally as a professional drummer), he always found time for his friends. After news of Mr. Giunta's death spread, the family heard from all sorts of people whose lives he had touched. "It didn't surprise us that he had done so much for so many people," Chris Giunta said. "It surprised us that they remembered what he had done. To him, helping people wasn't anything that was noteworthy. It was just the way he was."