Recently, Joe Dardis was laughing about this year's Columbus Day Parade in Little Italy and the tradition of catching bread thrown from a truck.
"When the Orlando bread truck drove by, people were probably thinking, "What is this 99-year-old man doing, trying to catch bread!' Well, I was showing them I can still provide for my family!"
In November, 2014, Dardis will reach the century mark but still, you might see him again at next year's parade catching bread.
Dardis has a long, rich history here. He came to Little Italy in 1924 when he was 9. He came from a coal town in Pennsylvania into some of the toughest and most competitive neighborhoods in the Greater Cleveland area during the roaring '20s.
"It was hard for a kid [like me] to move in there like that,'' Dardis said. "I had to take a lot of hard knocks and traded a few punches before I finally became just another kid in the neighborhood.
It was the height of the roaring '20s and there were a lot of hard-working immigrants and laborers in Little Italy. Everyone worked hard to make it, Dardis recalls.
"Hard work never killed anybody," Dardis said. "I believe in hard work and a good education. I believe today the most important thing is education. It is what you need to achieve your goals."
In 1945, Dardis earned a scholarship to Fenn College, which is now Cleveland State University. But he turned it down because he needed to keep working to take care of his family. He and his wife had a child then.
"I still became a success in the food service industry and raised three children. I may not have had the education I wanted, but I worked hard and have a great family."
Dardis and his wife, Christine (Tini), have three children, nine grandchildren and 10 grandchildren.
Dardis has been a resident of Northeast Ohio for 89 years and has lived in Chesterland for the last 55. He is active in St. Anslem's Young of Hearts, Collinwood Memories, American-Italian Heritage Club and Little Italy Retirees.
He works out at Bally's gym regularly and has had a golf date every Tuesday for the last 26 years. Says Joe: "Add that all up and you can figure out my longevity."
Caption for Photo
Dale Dardis, Joe Dardis, and Tini Dardis at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport after Joe's 2013 attendance at Washington D.C.'s Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial.