Joe Guggino was born on July 31, 1910. He's set to celebrate his 102nd birthday.
The secret to his long life may have something to do with his habits. He's never drank or smoked, but he's always played the clarinet.
"My uncle had a band," Guggino said. "And he was mean. If I played a wrong note, he'd slap me in the head."
Guggino said he first picked up the clarinet when he was 8 or 10 years old, and has played in bands ever since. Currently, he is the senior member of the Tampa Community Band, which practices every Wednesday night at Kate Jackson Park in South Tampa.
"He has enduring skills, and he's always building his skills," said the band's manager Ed Solomon. "He's got a spirited motivation, and he's an iconic figure and an inspiration to the rest of us."
After practice, Guggino invites fellow band members to his home for ice cream and cake. Often Joe's stories are also on the menu. His parents came from Sicily to work in Tampa Cigar factories.
"There was Spanish and Italian and Puerto Rican. The Spanish people wouldn't speak Italian. They said, 'If you want to speak to me, speak Spanish, so we learned Spanish," he said.
All the while, Guggino played the clarinet, even when he took up a career as a track worker for the Seaboard Railway. He tells of near-misses, jumping out of the way of trains and even bolts of lightning.
In one story, he was out on the tracks near Sarasota when a bad storm came up.
"Here comes the lightning right in front of the motor car, a ball of fire like this," he says as his arms wave and eyes widen. "Man, if it had hit just a little closer, it would have got me. It split a pine tree in two."
His first car was a Model T Ford. Now, on the door of his pickup is written "Nano 1910."
That's the Italian word for grandfather.
Now, his great grandchildren come to watch him play. He has no plans to retire from the band.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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