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Published: Tuesday, 6/25/2013

Longtime northwest Ohio resident celebrates his 100th birthday

BY LORENZO LIGATO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Juan Rios celebrated his 100th birthday with a reunion of his seven children and many of his 21 grandchildren and 46 great-grandchildren at a party filled with Mexican dances and food. Juan Rios celebrated his 100th birthday with a reunion of his seven children and many of his 21 grandchildren and 46 great-grandchildren at a party filled with Mexican dances and food.
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For Juan Rios, the secret to longevity is ketchup-topped hot dogs, gambling, and slow-tempo Latino music. Home-rolled cigarettes are allowed too, as long as you don’t inhale the smoke, said the the longtime South Toledo resident, who turned 100 on Monday.

“I rolled my own cigarettes but I never really inhaled, so my friends always said I wasn’t really smoking,” the centenarian joked, speaking in Spanish-accented English.

A first-generation Mexican-American, Mr. Rios was born on June 24, 1913, in Islitas, now a ghost town in southwestern Texas, along the Mexican border. He has seen four generations of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, cast his ballot in 20 presidential elections, and witnessed dramatic changes in culture, science, and technology. He has learned to use a cell phone, but to this day he refuses to deal with computers or the Internet.

“Why should he use it? He probably never even thought about learning,” said his second-eldest daughter, Hilda Rodriguez.

A retired landscaper and street sweeping supervisor, Mr. Rios has found more traditional ways to amuse himself which don’t involve online chatting or computer graphics: every morning, he spends hours playing poker or Mexican bingo at the Mayores Senior Center at 2 Aurora Dr. in South Toledo, where he is friends with all of the nurses and the other senior visitors, Mrs. Rodriguez said.

For Mr. Rios, poker has always been a big hobby, but only in moderation.

“Dad has always been kind of a little gambler,” said his daughter Janie Cortez. “It keeps his mind active, but he knows when to quit: if he starts losing, he says he’s done.”

Born to immigrants Filiberto Rios and Tiburtia Ortiz, he was raised speaking Spanish and only learned English later in his life, Ms. Cortez said.

“We’re really proud of our dad: he always provided for us, without knowing a lot of English,” Mrs. Cortez said. “He had to drive a lot for work, and he would just learn English from the landmarks: I give him a lot of credit for that.”

A father of two sons and five daughters, Mr. Rios traveled across Michigan and Ohio before settling down in Perrysburg in 1953, Mrs. Rodriguez said.

After suffering a heart attack at the age of 80, he moved into Mrs. Rodriguez’s home in South Toledo, where he now resides. Although he eventually agreed to quit smoking for health concerns, the centenarian still indulges in some culinary peccadilloes.

“He’s very picky with food: he doesn’t like eating a lot of vegetables, but he loves hot dogs,” Mrs. Rodriguez said. “He has quite a temper sometimes too.”

Until a few yeas ago, she added, Mr. Rios used to frequent dancing venues with his wife, Erlinda, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 93.

Today, despite his three-digit age, Mr. Rios still enjoys dancing, supporting himself with a walker.

In celebration of his 100th birthday, he reunited his seven children and many of his 21 grandchildren and 46 great-grandchildren for a party filled with Mexican dances and food.

“The party was a great success: all the women in the family formed a circle around him and he danced with his walker,” Mrs. Cortez said. “He had a very good time.”

Contact Lorenzo Ligato at: lligato@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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