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Coastal Couple Tunes In To See Grandkids on Bravo Reality Show

Aug 19 2014

by Anna Ferguson Hall

In true proud grandparent mode, Doris Anne and Bob Gruno have story after story of their two grandchildren. Every summer for more years than they can count, the Gruno’s played host to their only grandchildren, Amy and Kelley Johnson, for one month each, giving the two tykes equal time and attention in the McIntosh County couple’s homestead.

During those two months every year, the Grunos would entertain the two now-grown children, taking them out on the water as often as possible, for excursions of boating on Sapelo Island, fishing on Blackbeard Island and beyond.

“Having them with us, separately, to enjoy that special time and attention, it really made for great summers,” Doris Anne said. “They weren’t from a place where they ever saw the ocean, saw large bodies of water. To be able to show them the magical world of the coast, it really made a mark on their lives and paths for their futures.”

The Grunos’ efforts to acclimate their Texas-born grandchildren to the world of water are proving to pay off in celebrity-sized dividends. Last week, Amy and Kelley Johnson were introduced to the nation, as part of the cast for the newest season of Bravo TV’s reality show, “Below Deck.” Now in its second season, the reality show follows a small group of individuals who are employed aboard the extravagant $10 million yacht, The Ohana, which offers wealthy guests lavish, charter cruises.

Tuning in to the show for the first full episode on Tuesday, Aug. 12, the Grunos were delighted to see their two grandchildren showcased as upstanding, hard-working individuals. After all, that is the essence of who these siblings are, Bob Johnson said.

“I know, I’m their grandfather, but I have to say, these are two great, great young adults,” Bob said. “They have a solid foundation and understand how to make something of themselves.”

Prior to being on the show, Amy Johnson, 31, had worked as a chef and stew member on several other yachts, a career she took on after moving with her mother from Texas to Fort Lauderdale several years ago. Kelley Johnson, 27, though, is new to the yachting culture, coming into the gig on his sister’s suggestion, after serving in the Marines for four years, during which time he assisted with the now-emphasis rescue mission to free Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. In 2013, the rescue was turned in a highly-acclaimed film, starring Tom Hanks as the title character in the movie of the same name.

While the initial episode of the yachting reality show displayed the Johnson siblings as moral, well-behaved and socially-cultured individuals, Doris Anne and Bob both voiced suspicion that such model citizen behavior wouldn’t last all season.

“Our Kelley, he’s got that Marine side of him, following orders, working hard and not putting up with laziness,” Doris Anne said. “There are some folks on the show, you can already tell, that he may not be too patient with.”

“I’m just hoping he doesn’t blow up,” Bob laughed. “I think it’s pretty likely, though. We’ll see. Amy said that maybe she should watch all the episodes before we start to watch, so she can warn us. Whatever happens, we’ll take it all in stride, with a sense of humor.”

Though the Gruno’s may be a bit surprised by some of the episodes to come this season, they aren’t shocked to see their attractive, accomplished grandchildren on a show about yachting. The siblings have had a deep love and appreciation for the water since the Gruno’s moved to McIntosh County 15 years ago. It was here that the Johnson’s first spent time on a boat, first learned to fish and first found out about the wonders of a water-centric life.

“These kids, they instantly connected with the water, so for them to be on this show, it seems like a natural fit,” Bob said. “It’s funny, though, that their love for the water really developed here in McIntosh County. And now, look where it has taken them.”

With fervor, Doris Anne recalls the time she, her husband and a young Amy first visited Shellman Bluff and Savannah, prior to moving to the coast from their Atlanta home. It was the first time Amy, who was born and raised in central Texas, had seen the Atlantic Ocean. Bob, too, adds to the story collection, offering up the tale of the time Kelley spent the entire day fishing in the Sapelo River, as he was want to do. Only, this one day, he came home without any fish. Instead, he was toting an alligator in his arms, displaying for the Gruno’s his massive catch, before releasing the creature back to the wild.

When chatting with the Grunos, they are apt to keep the memories flowing, recounting the siblings’ childhood and teen years. But the stories don’t end there, the Grunos assured. With Amy and Kelley now grown up and starring on a national reality series, they feel confident there will be plenty more exciting adventures to report in the months and years ahead.

“We’re so excited for them and to see what happens on this show,” Doris Anne said. “It’s such a unique opportunity for them.”

“Before all of this, we had never seen the show or even heard of it,” Bob said. “I don’t really know what to expect. I’m sure there will be plenty of editing done to make things, well, exciting. I just hope they come out looking like the great people they are. I’m sure they will, though.”

(Article originally published in The Darien News; “Below Deck” photos courtesy of BravoTV)

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