Posts Tagged ‘103 years old’

Our Latest McDee Award* Winner: Octavio Orduno

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

When I was in my twenties and just back from army service in Germany, I moved to the Monterey peninsula and rented an inexpensive place on the corner of First Avenue and Carpenter Street in the woodsy northeastern corner of Carmel. It was, well, rustic, to be kind about it.  Mr. Harthorn, the owner and a lifelong carpenter, had built the unit up over his garage some years earlier as a place for his mother to live. When she passed on, he rented it out.

Mr. Harthorn was no kid.  He was eighty-seven, as I recall, which, adjusted for inflation, so to speak, was like being well over one-hundred today.  But he was alert and active enough to make a cross-country auto trip that summer, with the help of a niece, to see relatives back in his native Maine. “You never know how long they’ll be there,” he said, leading me to believe they were even older than he.

“I have a lot of lumber stored in the garage,” he said to me as we concluded our discussions of rental payment and the like.  “If you want, I’ll have my son move it to the storage shed so you can park your car in there.”

Well I was young and incredibly full of myself because after all I just rented my first solo apartment in Carmel of all places.  I don’t remember what I replied exactly, but I do recall thinking, “Right.  Have the kid come over and get the stuff out of my way.”  The next afternoon I came home only to find a sixty-seven-year-old “kid” struggling with heavy two-by-fours just for my benefit. Guilt ridden, I pitched in and we got the job done in no time.

At that point in my life, I’m pretty sure Mr. Harthorn was the oldest person I had ever met.  But he was impressive in his movements and energy and most of all his attitude.  It was like, “I’m eighty-seven, but who’s counting?” Not surprisingly, his image came to mind not long ago when I heard about Octavio Orduno, a 103-year-old resident of Long Beach, who is our most recent McDee Award winner. Like Mr. Harthorn, Octavio is alert and physically active.  In Long Beach he has become an icon among those who value fitness because almost every day of the week, he gets his bike out of his garage and cycles anywhere from three to six miles. He lives just a half block from the beach and rides to the park, to the beach — anywhere around the neighborhood. 

In a You Tube video interview, Octavio gives varying estimates for how long he has been cycling.  At one point he says “knee high to a grasshopper” but later guesses that sometime around 1920 is a pretty good guess.   These days he rides a three-wheeler, but only because his wife Alicia — she’s just eighty-one — insisted that he abandon his two-wheeler after falling.

He says he feels like he’s forty or fifty, and that he never gets sick. An interviewer asked him how he stays healthy.  He said food is the key — a good diet — and complained that some food companies put too much junk in the foods.  His regular dinner: beans, brown rice and veggies. How much does he smoke?  “Smoke?” he replied indignantly.  “I don’t smoke.”

“Not long ago, the city’s bike coordinator, a gregarious, gray-haired Texan named Charles Gandy, took notice,” Esmeralda Bermudez wrote in the L.A. Times in March. “He befriended Orduño and shared his story online, posting two videos of him coasting down the bike lanes, propped up by his self-installed blue velvet backrest. And that’s only the start of Gandy’s plan, if the old man is game. He’d like to have him cut the ribbon at bike-friendly ceremonies and appear in television and radio ads.”

Octavio is a retired aerospace mechanic who has been married to Alicia for nearly sixty years, and was married earlier for twenty. In all he has had six children and numerous grandchildren in states as far away as Missouri. His son Eddie, who is seventy-nine and lives in Fresno told the Times, “I don’t know how many days he has left, how many months, how many years, but he’s had a full life.”

Several times in this Age Well series we have quoted the late Dr. Robert Butler who expressed skepticism about one of the recent catch phrases, “Ninety is the new fifty.” A better approach, he said, is to make ninety a better, more fruitful ninety. Without doubt Octavio Orduno accomplished that.

* The McDee Awards are given occasionally to individuals over seventy who have some notable accomplishment.  For late tuners in, the first two award winners were Ann Timson, the 75-year-old grandmother from Northhampton, England, who thwarted a jewelry store robbery by whacking the startled thieves in the head with her purse, and 89-year-old Betty White, who plays the irreverent Elka Ostrovsky in the TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland.