Dr. Falino celebrates 100th birthday

Dr. Falino celebrates 100th birthday

LINCOLN - Digging into a piece of chocolate cake so large it teetered on the plate, John Falino celebrated his 100th birthday on Monday, July 1, amongst family and neighbors.

"It doesn't feel much different from when I was 19," he joked.

Falino, a Providence native who lived in North Providence for most of his life, now resides at Atria Lincoln Place on George Washington Highway in Lincoln. He has been there for nine years, the longest of any other resident.

Fellow residents and staff often refer to him as "Dr. Falino," recognizing the 30 years he spent as a practicing optometrist in the Centredale neighborhood of North Providence.

His daughter, Elsa Saccoccio, and her 15-year-old daughter, Kelly, were among the extended family that celebrated Falino's big day on Sunday afternoon. Jeannine Heath, Saccoccio's sister, made the trip from New York with her daughter, Morgan.

But Saccoccio and Kelly, who live in North Providence, were able to head back to Atria for party number two the next day, when Falino's days as a ballroom dancer were honored with a live performance.

John and Dee Soares of Studio One RI danced a foxtrot and a waltz for the room full of guests, dedicating the numbers to Falino.

"I did a lot of dancing, I can tell you that," Falino said.

Elsa recalled her father teaching her to dance.

"You swung me around beautifully on the living room rug," she said.

Born in 1913, Falino was the sixth of seven children.

After graduating from high school, he put himself through optometry school in Boston. After three decades in business, he retired early - before age 60, he believes - but continued to act as a landlord for a nearby property on Woonasquatucket Avenue in North Providence.

Falino met his wife, the late Alexandra Kordopati, through mutual friends who owned the former Centredale eatery Andrew's Restaurant. He was a regular and the owners thought he would get along well with a girl they knew in Greece.

They corresponded for a year before Falino flew to Greece, marrying his Alexandra a month or two after meeting. She died in 1995. Saccoccio said the 100th birthday has been cause for much celebration in the family.

"We love every opportunity to see my dad. The 100th celebration brings the family together," she said. "It brings Atria together in his honor, as well."

Saccoccio remembers that her father was always around to help others, whether it was for his optometry practice or not.

"He's the kind of person who cares about people," she said. "He just knows how to take care of things."

She said those who went to Falino with a problem would always walk away "feeling better, lighter."

"It's still that way," she said. "He's such a great man."