Keeping up with Frank Ventre requires taking 100 years in stride

By Obie Schramm/Special to The Catholic Miscellany

HILTON HEAD — In this day and age, reaching the milestone of a 100th birthday is not  unusual. What is out of the ordinary is when an active 100-year-old man greets you at his front door in a bright golf shirt and tennis shorts, full of energy after a long walk.
Frank Ventre, a member of Holy Family Church, will celebrate this auspicious occasion on May 22 at the 5 p.m. Mass followed by a gala on May 23 in Schiller Hall surrounded by his family and scores of good friends.
“It’s going to be a terrific party,” Ventre told The Miscellany in an interview. “My son Frank Jr. and my five grandchildren (Matthew and John Ventre, and John, Katherine and Karen Scarminach) are coming in from all over the place.”
While he is excited about the festivities, working it into his schedule has proven to be a difficult task. Born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., on May 22, 1909, Ventre’s level of activity has been consistent most of his life.
He starts each day saying the rosary and goes to a  fitness club to workout six mornings a week. He has a standing golf game on Tuesdays, outings to the beach twice weekly, and eucharistic adoration duty followed by lunch out on Thursday.
His position on the advisory board of the SHARE Senior Center for the Island Recreation Association and his Knights of Columbus obligations also take up a good bit of time. Ventre joined the Knights in 1954 and is a past Grand Knight.
The fourth of six children, he reminisced about being a young caddy with his two brothers at Belleview Country Club in New York.
“We would caddy all week and earn $17, which was big money back then. They also let us play all the golf we wanted early in the morning for free,” he said.
Ventre married his late wife Mary on Oct. 5, 1935, and traveled from Syracuse to New York City for their honeymoon. “There were no interstate highways back then and the trip took us 12 hours, but we had a grand time,” he said.
He spent most of his working life as a bartender in Enrico’s family restaurant in Syracuse.
“It’s a wonderful place,” Ventre said proudly. He still has pictures from its early days. Besides the legendary restaurant, they also produce Enrico’s Spaghetti Sauce.
“When we need sauce I just call up to Syracuse and they send me a case,” he said.
The Ventre’s had two children. He lives with his daughter Anne Marie Scarminach, and  his son John is an attorney in New York. Since he moved here from Florida four years ago, his daughter admitted she has a hard time keeping up with his daily schedule.
“He goes non-stop,” Scarminach said. “I come home from work at night and collapse and he’s still going strong after a full day of activities. It’s wonderful.”
He drives himself most places but also has a big group of friends like Colleen Langley, a cantor at Holy Family who Ventre says has the voice of an angel, and Joe Mendoni, his Thursday lunch friend. He keeps in touch with his many friends and golf buddies with his mobile phone.
There are also frequent trips with his friends from the SHARE Center to places like Daufuskie Island, Atlanta and St. Augustine.
Throughout the century of his life, Ventre has been to many different places.
“Mary and I traveled to Italy and we loved it. We had an audience with Pope John Paul II and saw Boys Town of Italy, like the one in Nebraska. That was wonderful. Hawaii was terrific, too. On a trip to California we saw the Rose Bowl Parade and the Lawrence Welk Show,” he said.
The only place left to visit on his list of must-see places is Paris, and he would love to return to Italy. In the meantime, he will travel with friends to the Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston, which begins May 22.
He is looking forward to his grandson, John Scarminach, coming home from Atlanta for his party. They will make their usual trip to Aunt Chilada’s Mexican Restaurant for the clams and San Miguels for happy hour.
“I love it when all the kids are home, so much activity and fun,” he said.
After everyone has returned home, a good part of his summer will be devoted to following the New York Yankees.
His days are very full and happy, Ventre said, but he deeply misses Mary, his beloved wife of 54 years, who died in 1988.
“I think of her every day,” he said.
His advice for people who wish to reach 100 is simple.
“People get old because they stop doing things. Don’t just sit around doing nothing … keep moving,” he said.