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108 and feeling great

From left, John Amoriell and his niece Della Maddox celebrate Amoriell’s 108th birthday. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone) (Editor's note: This caption has been corrected.)

TUPPER LAKE — John Amoriell’s 108th birthday is today, but on Monday he celebrated with a crew of Mercy Living Center residents and staff with stories from his century-plus of life, a large cake and hearty toots on a party horn.

He was wheeled in, smiling widely and greeting everyone, by his buddy and Mercy employee Rose Hudak. He was wearing a sharp red cardigan.

“He changed twice,” Hudak said.

After everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” he blew the horn with a strength surprising for his age.

“Physically and mentally, he is 100% perfect,” Amoriell’s niece Della Maddox said.

She said the only reason Amoriell lives at the elder care center is his knees, but still, she said, “He sneaks out of his chair when nobody’s looking.”

She said Amoriell came to Mercy in 2014 to “help out,” which he does, going to help other residents who holler for assistance.

Amoriell’s advice for long living is not medicine-focused. He said he only goes to the doctor for his regular physical and never took medicine. He always was active and did hard physical work, keeping busy with a variety of jobs.

He grew up in Tupper Lake and remembers getting his first job as a shoe shiner when he was 10 years old. Later, he worked at the Oval Wood Dish company for 15 cents an hour. This salary was fine with him, because rent was only $12 a month.

From 1936 to 1969, Amoriell was working on the railroad — the New York Central — walking the lines through Syracuse, Utica, Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady, inspecting lines and plowing tracks in temperatures as cold as minus 60.

He cooked at the Winter Playhouse, a shelter built by the federal Public Works Administration as part of then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program.

He even used to clean the very room in which his cake was cut Monday, back when it was an operating room in a hospital. He retired on his 80th birthday.

Town Supervisor Patti Littlefield presented Amoriell with a resolution passed by the town board just an hour prior, celebrating the occasion. When Littlefield introduced herself to Amoriell, she said he might remember her dad, John Sparks, who was mayor of Tupper Lake in the 1970s.

“I remember when he was born!” Amoriell said.

Sparks was born in 1931.

Amoriell still hunted at his family’s camp between Mosquito Pond and Mud Pond when he was 90 years old.

“I never got a deer,” Amoriell said. “I didn’t care anyway because I love the woods.”

On Monday Amoriell showed he could still crack up a room like he always has.

“Oh boy!” He said when the cake was placed in front of him. He took a few bites then made sure everybody else had cake, too.

“I’ve had a good life,” Amoriell said. “I’ll be here at 109, too!”

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