Turning 100 years old is a feat not many people accomplish, but that day came on Monday for West Bay Retirement Living resident John Lombardi.
More than 50 residents joined him in the great room at the senior community to sing him “Happy Birthday,” watch him make a wish as he blew out candles atop his cake and participate in a game of trivia.
But, what’s his secret to longevity?
“I just keep going along as it comes,” he said. “I’ve always played it low key.”
Lombardi was born on Federal Hill in Providence and lived in Cranston before moving to West Bay, which is located at 2783 West Shore Road in Warwick, a year and a half ago. Since then, he’s made a few friends through playing cards at West Bay and they think highly of him.
“I play High-Low-Jack with him and he’s really sharp,” said fellow resident Eunice Jackson.
His poker partner, Betty Dussault, agreed and said, “He’s smart.”
Those who sit with him during meals in the dining room enjoy his company as well.
“He’s a real gentleman,” said Mary Buono. “He doesn’t talk much but he always helps me with my chair.”
Bill Amirault and Louise Kirkman also dine alongside Lombardi. They, too, sang his praises.
“He’s very friendly,” Amirault said. “At this age, I’ve never met anyone so pleasant. I haven’t heard him complain once.”
Vicki Catanzaro described Lombardi as a “very nice man,” while others said they felt privileged to celebrate the milestone birthday with him. In fact, Jeanne Lacroix said it’s “terrific” that he is able-bodied and in good health.
“It’s wonderful to reach that age, especially since he still can do all the things that we all do,” she said.
More than a dozen of his family members visited West Bay Monday to ring in his 100th, including his two daughters, Joan Rozen and Judy Campbell, plus his cousins, nephews, nieces, great nephews and nieces and even great, great nephews and nieces.
Greg Mayer, his great nephew, was thrilled to be there for the party. He said Lombardi is the last of eight siblings.
“It’s very special and is an honor for us,” Mayer said. “We come from a very large family from Federal Hill and my aunts lived upstairs in one house and my grandparents lived downstairs. My uncle lived on the corner and my other aunt lived across the street so we were all together on Sundays for dinner. You don’t see that anymore.”
Lombardi’s grandchildren attended the event. On Sunday, they joined him at Luciano’s Restaurant for a pre-birthday feast.
“He’s the glue that keeps us together,” said his grandson of the same name.
“He’s quiet so when he talks everybody listens,” said another grandson David Rozen.
His granddaughter Andrea Campbell said she feels fortunate that he is still alive and well.
“He’s amazing, ” she said.
In his spare time, Lombardi s likes to read detective novels in addition to playing cards. He also enjoys bowling, as he accompanied several residents to Meadowbrook Lanes just last week.
But, that’s not the only sport on his radar, as he is a fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, and was disappointed at his home team’s recent Super Bowl loss.
“They shouldn’t have lost that game,” said Lombardi.
Lombardi played soccer during his college years at American International College in Springfield, Mass., where he studied math, science and language and graduated in 1934. Lombardi also has a fondness for watching horse races.
In his younger years, he and his wife Lucy, who passed away in 2002, frequented the movies.
“We always used to have good times,” he said.
While he was being interviewed, other residents said they are looking forward to their 100th birthdays. In fact, Flora Napolitano said that despite the fact that she was born on May 18, 1916, she considers herself 100.
“Hey, I’m close enough,” she said.
West Bay Manor is operated by Brookdale Senior Living and holds the distinction of being the first dedicated retirement and assisted living community in New England. It features a private dining room, card room, arts/crafts room, library, common areas, whirlpool spa and patio, as well as a restaurant-style dining prepared by certified chefs.
“I’ve been living here for one year and I’m enjoying it,” said Mary Campagnone. “I love all the activities, from tap dancing to exercising. We have a swimming pool, too.”