Janet Mundus, 88

Dec. 3, 1925-June 29, 2014
Janet Mundus, 88, Dec. 3, 1925-June 29, 2014

Janet Carolyn Mundus, who was a fixture in Montauk for many years, died at home on Sunday. She was 88.

Mrs. Mundus was fun-loving and a hard worker with a keen intellect, her family said, and had been married to Frank Mundus, the celebrated shark fisherman.

She was born to Russell Bertram and the former Emily Katherine Probasco on Dec. 3, 1925, and raised on a large soybean farm in Allentown, N.J. She excelled in music and pursued her studies at Rutgers University until she met Frank Mundus on the boardwalk. The couple eloped on a hard-tail motorcycle and married in 1946.

They settled in Point Pleasant, N.J., where Mr. Mundus fished his first charter boat, the Cricket, and Mrs. Mundus helped manage a guest house owned by Frank’s family. In January 1947 they had their first child, Barbara, and took delivery of a new custom-designed boat, the Cricket II.

Mr. and Mrs. Mundus moved to Fort Pond Bay aboard the Cricket II in 1951. All season, with little available housing, Mrs. Mundus packed up and spent the day ashore, pushing Barbara in a baby carriage. Each evening she returned to make dinner and put her family to bed. They briefly moved off the boat into a one-room house in Ditch Plain.

The family settled in a small house on the ocean. Mrs. Mundus gave birth to two more daughters and raised them there; Patricia was born in 1957, and Teresa, known as Tammy, was born in 1961.

“We never had two nickels to rub together in those days, but we had it all,” Mrs. Mundus was fond of saying.

Pat Mundus said her mother was ever-resourceful out of necessity. “She kept a lightbulb burning in every closet to ward off the dampness, and every winter Mom would give us a butter knife and a pile of newspapers to chink all the windows against the ocean winds.”

“My mom could cut and wrap a mess of fish like nobody’s business, and she was a terrific venison and game cook. Mom knew the best berry patches, and she knew how to change a tire and fix the washing machine. Yet she still found time to watch us kids on the beach, play music, help senior citizens, and have drinks and laugh with friends in the evening,” she said. Like many wives of Montauk fishermen, she also worked during the summers at Gosman’s restaurant to augment the family income.

The Montauk community recognized that Mrs. Mundus was an equal in building the Cricket II business. She delivered truckloads of bait, ground bunker and canned them for chum, sanded the boat’s bottom, laid up fiberglass, took charter reservations, kept the books, and co-designed the advertising materials. She made shark-tooth jewelry and manned exhibits at boat shows. All that in addition to keeping the household running and raising three children while her husband was offshore every day.

“Mom was a powerhouse, and she’s always been the pacesetter in the family,” Pat Mundus said.

Mrs. Mundus’s marriage to Frank Mundus ended in divorce after 30 years. In 1976 Mrs. Mundus and her youngest daughter, Teresa, moved from Montauk, where Mrs. Mundus purchased the only house she ever owned, to Springs.

Over the years that followed, she served customers in various East Hampton eateries, including Gordon’s, Buoy Eleven, and O’Malley’s. In addition to restaurants, she worked at the News Company, Stern’s Department Store, East Hampton school cafeterias, and the East Hampton Library.

In her 60s, Mrs. Mundus was a key worker in an antique barn restoration project, laboring shoulder-to-shoulder with her daughter Pat and son-in-law the late Earl Vorhees, labeling and dismantling three large hand-hewn barns in upstate New York, restoring them, and erecting them on Northwest Creek in East Hampton.

Mrs. Mundus found joy and fulfillment in caring for others, always having someone in her life to watch out for and help in times of need, her family said. Her passions were The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, reading, playing music, supporting her children’s and grandchildren’s interests, and sitting on the inlet beach at Maidstone Park.

“She never left the beach according to the time on her watch,” her daughter Teresa A. Greene said. “She’d only pick up her beach chair after counting a certain number of boats coming in the inlet.”

Mrs. Mundus remained active into her mid-80s. Among family and friends, she is remembered for her fiery self-reliance and for her signature rosehip and beach plum jellies.

She is survived by her daughters, Barbara J. Crowley of Billerica, Mass., Patricia G. Mundus of Greenport, and Teresa A. Greene of Springs. A brother, Russell Merton Probasco, died before her. Frank Mundus died in 2008.

Mrs. Mundus will be cremated and her ashes spread at sea in a simple family service. The family has suggested memorial donations to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.