Enfield man nears 103rd birthday

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Jul. 7, 2011
Nearing his 103rd birthday, Peter Bellico sits behind the wheel of his Plymouth Reliant that he still drives. Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza stopped him to chat in the Mount Carmel Society parking lot. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
Nearing his 103rd birthday, Peter Bellico sits behind the wheel of his Plymouth Reliant that he still drives. Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza stopped him to chat in the Mount Carmel Society parking lot. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

“Three years ago I could run a lot faster,” said Peter Bellico, as he walked sprightly. Minutes earlier, Bellico - who will turn 103 in a few weeks - navigated his 1980s white Plymouth Reliant into the parking lot of the Mount Carmel Society, where he has been a member since 1933.

At 102, Bellico has limited his driving to only the necessary trips - things like groceries and meetings of the Italian social club - and he lives by himself. Born in 1908, he lived through both world wars, the Great Depression and grew up during the earliest mass production of the automobile and the spread of electricity. Theodore Roosevelt was president when Bellico was born, and 18 other men have taken that office during his lifetime.

What does he have to say of all this? “I lived a regular life. I was a regular family man.”

Bellico’s parents came to the United States from Italy and were married in New York City, where they lived when their first child, Joe, was born. Bellico laughed as he recounted the story his mother told of how they came to Enfield. The Italian couple rented an apartment above a beer tavern in the city, and apparently Bellico’s father would stop at the bar each night on his way home from work.

“That wasn’t going to work, she always said,” Bellico recalled of his mother, who contacted her sister who lived on a farm in Enfield. Soon after, the family of three relocated to the town, and Peter was born on July 26, 1908, though his actual birth date is contested.

Bellico said his mother called the doctors to the family farm on July 26, but she did not go into labor until the next day. He and his twin brother, who lived 101 years, spent the majority of their lives celebrating on July 27, but eventually learned that the doctor had recorded the birth with the town clerk’s office as a day earlier.

“I always put the 27th on my license, everything,” Bellico said. “The clerk wouldn’t change it.”

Bellico met his wife, Jennie, at a dance hall and married her in 1936. He spoke fondly of her and talked about how they would dance and travel together. “We went out on trips, even with the wheelchair,” he said. “She was a good wife.” Jennie passed away in 1999, after the couple had shared 63 years of marriage.

Bellico still has quite the family around him, though. One of seven siblings, his brother George, who is 95, is still living, and Bellico had one daughter, Joanne. She and her husband are now in their 70s.

“Imagine that, she’s gonna catch up to me,” he said, laughing. “She calls me every day to make sure I’m still living.” Bellico also has four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Though he is a little hard of hearing, for the most part, Bellico is in good health for a centurion. He has a cane and a walker, but he hates to use them, saying he does not want to depend on them. Once a smoker, he quit back in the ’50s, after his doctor told him he would live longer. “He was right,” Bellico said.

Ask him to tell you a story, and he might tell you a tale about his work supervisor from 1940 or that his first car at age 18 was a Model-T. Now a Red Sox fan, Bellico once rooted for the Yankees and even shook Babe Ruth’s hand at Yankee Stadium in the late ’20s. Back then, it took him six hours of travel on dirt roads. He said he switched to the Red Sox when Ruth and DiMaggio retired.

Not one to think his long life as anything extraordinary, Bellico simply said, “Keep that heart happy, and if you need help, God is only a little prayer away. Life is worth living.”


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