A phamily affair

“I look for­ward to just be­ing with my fam­ily… Life is too short. We have to get to­geth­er and en­joy life to­geth­er. We all really en­joy be­ing around each oth­er. It’s al­ways a good time.” —Jena Vis­con­to

Photo cour­tesy of Chris­toph­er El­ston

Most people have a fam­ily tree. 

The Vis­con­tos have a fam­ily forest. 

Thriv­ing with more than 100 mem­bers, the Vis­con­to clan is surely plen­ti­ful. And for the second con­sec­ut­ive year, they re­cently held their fam­ily re­union at Cit­izens Bank Park to watch the Phil­lies. 

Sib­lings, par­ents, aunts, uncles and cous­ins in­vaded the ball­park to see the Phight­in’ Phils take on the At­lanta Braves on Fri­day night. It wasn’t the most pleas­ant of weath­er con­di­tions — the 7:05 p.m. game was delayed al­most two hours after down­pours flooded the area — but it was well worth the wait. 

Thanks to a walk-off homer cour­tesy of Raul Ibanez, the Phils downed At­lanta in 10 in­nings, 3-2.  Far more im­port­ant than the fi­nal score, though, was seiz­ing an op­por­tun­ity for the en­tire Vis­con­to fam­ily to get to­geth­er. 

“I look for­ward to just be­ing with my fam­ily,” said Jena Vis­con­to, 26, who lives in the Far North­east. “I’m very fam­ily-ori­ented. Life is too short. We have to get to­geth­er and en­joy life to­geth­er. We all really en­joy be­ing around each oth­er. It’s al­ways a good time.”

Al­though gath­er­ing at the ball­park is a re­l­at­ively new cus­tom for the fam­ily, the ritu­al of get­ting to­geth­er to root for the Phil­lies ac­tu­ally has been a fam­ily tra­di­tion for dec­ades. 

It all star­ted with Jena’s grand­par­ents, the late Mar­garet and Rocco Vis­con­to. They mar­ried and moved in­to a home on Tees­dale Street in May­fair. They had eight chil­dren, and, over the years, 36 grand­chil­dren. And the couple loved to watch the Phils on TV.

“When the Phil­lies were on, we’d al­ways go there,” re­called Jena. “My grand­mom was a huge Phil­lies fan. We’d all sit on the floor and each oth­er’s laps and pile down there and watch the Phil­lies. 

“The base­ment was ex­tremely small and we were down there all the time — Thanks­giv­ing, Christ­mas and every Phil­lies game,” she con­tin­ued. “I re­mem­ber it be­ing so crowded that to get the kids to the oth­er side of the room, they’d have to climb un­der the tables.”

The happy couple were mar­ried for more than 50 years, but sadly, in 1997, Mar­garet lost her battle with breast can­cer. Two years later, Rocco died of em­physema. 

“We didn’t get to­geth­er as of­ten after we lost our par­ents,” ex­plained Lou Vis­con­to, Jena’s fath­er. “My moth­er was the Phil­lies’ num­ber-one fan. She wouldn’t miss a game. If we could all be there, watch­ing with her, that made it even more spe­cial. That’s what my par­ents would have wanted, for this tra­di­tion to con­tin­ue.”

Mis­sion ac­com­plished. 

Rox­anne Vis­con­to — Lou’s sis­ter — was the brains of the op­er­a­tion. She ex­plained that after years of get­ting to­geth­er only for wed­dings and christen­ings, it seemed the per­fect time for a fam­ily re­union. 

“We al­ways got to­geth­er to watch the Phil­lies games, so it was a per­fect com­bin­a­tion — fam­ily and Phil­lies,” said Rox­anne. “Every­body loved the idea. Mainly, it was my sev­en sib­lings. They asked their chil­dren and it went from there.”

Last Fri­day night, 103 Vis­con­tos — most hail­ing from North­east Phil­adelphia, but some trav­el­ing from Bucks County and New Jer­sey — hiked to their 300-level seats and cheered on their Phight­in’ Phils. 

The guest list in­cluded Mar­garet and Rocco’s eight chil­dren, 36 grand­chil­dren and 38 great-grand­chil­dren, as well as sig­ni­fic­ant oth­ers. The young­est in at­tend­ance was Rocco Jr., 4 months, and the old­est fam­ily mem­ber was 67.

“Ba­sic­ally it’s just a reas­on to get to­geth­er and sup­port the Phil­lies, be­cause that’s what we did when my grand­par­ents lived in May­fair,” said Jena. “I think it’s really cool to be stand­ing there and see all these people and know it’s all hap­pen­ing be­cause two people fell in love with each oth­er. 

“Cher­ish­ing the people that mean the most to you and spend­ing time with them is really im­port­ant,” she ad­ded. “Fam­ily is very spe­cial to me.” ••

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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