CUMBERLAND — On the day he celebrated his 104th birthday, Louis Collamati sat in a reclining chair in his room at the Chapel Hill Senior Living complex and recalled just how much of an impact time can truly have.
“Everything is old now in no time. We’ve seen more in one century than the world has seen in 2,000 years,” Collamati said. “We’ve seen the horse and carriage, the fire wagon pulled by horses I’ve seen. Now they go to the moon, how can I keep up with that?”
Collamati turned 104 on Tuesday – his birth date was June 25, 1915 – and he recalled his upbringing and his century of life experiences during an interview with The Call.
The second-oldest child in a family of nine, Collamati was raised on a farm over the border in Bellingham, Mass. As a child, his life was altered in ways that resonated for decades to come when – in fourth grade – he stepped on a small catfish that had a spear on its back. The injury became infected and he was hospitalized for two years, to the point where it was entirely possible that his foot would need to be amputated.
He didn’t advance past fourth grade in elementary school but was eventually able to work his way into agricultural school, attending Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole, Mass., where he graduated in 1935.
“I used to love reading, I would read books, ‘Tom Swift,’ all those books,” he said. “One or two a day I would read and that’s how I educated myself.”
Because of the bone disease he developed after suffering the foot injury, Collamati was unable to serve during World War II. Instead, his services during the war were put to use manufacturing anti-aircraft equipment.
In addition to his wartime efforts, Collamati’s employment history included working for a poultry business, as a refrigeration serviceman, in sales, and as a serviceman for small utilities with Blackstone Valley Gas and Electric Co.
Through his work in sales, Collamati was able to enjoy a free trip to Bermuda, saying “I’ve been lucky a lot of times.”
To this day, Collamati enjoys gardening and is a regular handyman, fixing things whenever given the chance, as he still loves working with his hands.
When asked what advice he’d share with people seeking to live into their 100s, Collamati said:
“There’s a lot of jokes on that, I try not to be funny. I don’t know why myself, why should I be picked? I refrain from alcohol and medicine, I still don’t take medicine, no painkillers yet. I think it’s not good for you, my opinion is if you’ve got somebody else to do the job, then I quit.”
In a submission to Today Show host Al Roker celebrating his birthday, Collamati wrote that his secret to longevity was to stay busy with working and hobbies.
But, he penned: “If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret.”
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette