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Talk about a tough economy. When Hilton Head Island resident Frank Ventre was younger, he earned only $10 a week at a factory job to support his family of four.
But that was about seven decades ago, when a jug of milk cost three cents, he said. Ventre turned 100 years old Friday.
"Sometimes I can't believe I've lasted this long," he joked Friday morning after a Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church to celebrate the occasion. The centenarian, who attends Masseach Sunday, received a certificate from Pope Benedict XVI during the service.
Ventre's friends say exercise, good genes and a sense of humor helped get him to the century mark. As he shared his favorite memories after Friday's service, a friend asked him to "tell the one about Uncle Noah building the boat during the great flood."
Ventre, dressed in a pinstripe suit and polished black shoes, laughed.
A Syracuse, N.Y., native, Ventre describes himself as an "avid Yankees fan." That's the same description that aired on NBC's Today show Thursday, when correspondent Willard Scott, who recognizes people who've lived 100 years or more, read Ventre's name, relatives said. A photo of Ventre sporting a Yankees jersey flashed across the screen, they said.
Despite hitting the century milestone, Ventre said he doesn't plan to slow down any time soon. He said six times a week he exercises at the Players Club, where his daily fitness routine includes 30 minutes on the treadmill and a set of push-ups. He plays golf with friends about once a week.
He also plans to visit his son, Frank Jr., andgrandchildren in Syracuse this summer. Together, father and son will see a game at Yankee stadium, just as they did years ago.
Friends from church and from the S.H.A.R.E. Center for senior citizens joined both of Ventre's children and all five of his grandchildren at Friday's service.
His daughter, Anne Marie Scarminach, who has lived on Hilton Head since 1973 and convinced her father to move to the island four years ago, said Ventre's love for his family also is a factor in his longevity.
Scarminach said when she was young, she and her brother ate dinner every Thursday night at Enrico's, the Syracuse restaurant where her father worked as a bartender for 32 years after being laid off from his factory job.
"He didn't want to be away from his family, even at work," she said. "So we went to him."