The stories about Orlando Ricci’s life are endless.
Perhaps the most common query about Ricci, who three years ago was named one of the nation’s top 100 centenarians by a noted New York publishing house, is: Just how old is the Johnston resident.
“He’s one hundred and three as of yesterday [April 8],” Chris Giardina, who has known Ricci since 1966 when the pair worked together at the former Almacs Supermarket on Hartford Avenue, said Monday inside the Johnston Senior Center. “See, it says so right on this t-shirt.”
Giardina, who makes special t-shirts for just about any occasion and event, wanted to surprise his long-time friend because “when someone is one hundred and three you never know what to get them for their birthday.”
Suddenly, Giardina stopped talking and turned the clock back to when he actually drove Ricci to a dinner for veterans.
“Back then Orlando was 102,” Giardina said. “A lady at the dinner asked him ‘just how old are you, anyway?”
Ricci’s retort, Giardina said with a wide smile on his face, “102!”
So, like countless people have asked Ricci in recent years, “What’s your secret.”
He smiled and pulled out his wallet that contained a “Hi and Lois” cartoon that included that featured character saying hard drinking, wild women and risky behavior. “Really? Avoid all that!”
Ricci’s son Dennis, though, cast a little light on his dad’s secret.
“If you have the chance and the good will to live for a long time…I want to be in the condition my father is in at 103 years young,” Dennis said. “He has a set daily routine and no matter what happens during the day, he adheres to that routine.”
There’s another part of Ricci’s daily duty, of sorts, that Dennis shared.
“He’s up in the morning at seven, makes coffee, his breakfast, reads the paper from front to back, then gets ready to go to the senior center for lunch and meets his friends to play cribbage,” said Dennis. “He teaches the young guys 80 and 90 just how to play.”
When his father is finished getting ready to go to the JSC, he puts in both hearing aids even though they don’t work that well, Dennis deadpanned.
Even at 103, Ricci still drives, does his own laundry, goes shopping at Super Stop & Shop and frequents various restaurants in Johnston and Cranston.
The World War II veteran, who has been on the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight to Washington, DC to view the monuments dedicated to men like himself who fought for our freedom, also loves talking about golf.
“He was playing golf when he was 95 years young,” said Dennis. “Yet, he never rode in a golf cart and stopped playing because he refused to ride in the cart to get to his next shot. He takes the game very seriously.”
Son Dennis also recalled when his son, nephew and he were playing golf with dad.
“Never again,” Dennis said. “He would tell you what you did wrong on the last shot, the club you should have used and God forbid you talk with one another or take too long to tee off or putt. He’d always let you know it’s time to move on.”
The now 103-year-old Ricci also had several unique golf stories, as he has enjoyed the thrill of not one but two holes in one. He also enjoys gardening and making sure when and how his lawn should be cut – and even fertilized.
“Dad has the ability of squeezing Jefferson and getting two Jeffersons,” Dennis said. “He’s tight with the buck, but that typical of his generation. He has a sharp mind and can remember people’s names and events that happened 80 years ago. He has independence, health and wisdom … what else can you ask for?”
Dennis also remembers when he saw his primary care doctor – who is 85 – and checked him out and said I’ll see you in another year. Ironically, he doesn’t take oral medication.
What people also don’s now about Orlando Ricci is that 40 years ago he beat cancer of the lower bowl that required an ileostomy. Today, he’s still in great shape and no one believes he’s 103 years old.
Sunday, the Ricci’s had two birthday cakes, one for Orlando at 103 and another for Dennis, whose birthday was Monday but as he noted, “we’re 35 years apart.”
Yet another reason, people like Giardina and his friends at the Johnston Center will attest, “the stories about Orlando Ricci’s life career are extraordinary and endless, to say the least.”