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A centenarian celebration

Post Independent/April E. Clark Centenarian John Pilati helps his daughter, Sharon Blanco, cut his birthday cake Thursday evening at the Masonic Lodge. Pilati has been a Mason for more than 50 years.
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John Pilati has lived most of a century in the Centennial State and he couldn’t imagine life any other way.”Well, I was born in Colorado, for one thing,” said Pilati, at his 100th birthday party at the Masonic Lodge No. 65 in Glenwood Springs Thursday.Pilati, who has been a Mason for more than 50 years and once served as a master of the lodge, turned 100 on Jan. 14. He was born in Segundo (in southern Colorado) to parents who emigrated from Tyrol, a region in the eastern Alps.”My nationality isn’t Italian. I’m a Tyrol, part of the old (country) in Italy, more on the German side,” said Pilati, who has lived in Glenwood Springs for nearly 70 years.Although he never traveled overseas, Pilati did venture outside of the state in his younger years. Pilati briefly left Colorado to attend Coyne Electrical School in Chicago in the 1920s.”I remember we used to go downtown on a dime and ride the elevator cars,” he said of Chicago. “We could travel all over the city on a dime.”Later, as an auto mechanic working for the Atomic Energy Commission after World War II, Pilati traveled south to service trucks hauling uranium.”Dad worked in the motor pool on the Manhattan Project and he used to tell the story about when he would have to go out when someone would break down in the desert,” said Pilati’s daughter, Sharon Blanco. “The airplanes would be circling above him, checking on him.”

Pilati first traveled to the Glenwood Springs area before he studied in Chicago. During a trip to meet a friend of his father’s, he befriended Rose Bendetti, who became Rose Pilati nine years later.”My father and her father worked in the mines in southern Colorado. One year, Dad took us all up to her father’s ranch,” Pilati said. “We used to correspond for quite a while. The job I had brought me back to Glenwood Springs.”Rose Pilati said she held out for John, despite a few suitors who came calling.”I had several proposals before then – that’s no lie,” said Rose, who will be 93 in May.After a year of courtship, the pair were married on Sept. 17, 1938, by a Methodist parson.”We had to wait until the parson got off work he was busy,” Rose said. “He was working six days a week, nine hours a day.”

In the nearly 70 years her parents have been married, Blanco said her father has rarely left her mother’s side. The couple, who have one grandson and three great-granddaughters, still live in their Glenwood Springs home they bought more than 58 years ago.”He never went anywhere without my mother,” said Blanco, a Glenwood Springs High School alumnae who works at the Italian Underground. “My mother and father moved to the house when I was 6 months old and have been there ever since.”Rose acknowledged the strong bond between her and her centenarian husband, but said she hasn’t always been his only passion.”His first love was electricity, but the Depression came and there were no jobs. He wanted to work for an electrical company,” she said. “He could fix anything. He kept everything running.”



Blanco said her father’s strong work ethic and love for his family have kept him going strong.”Basically he worked hard all his life,” she said. “He was 72 years old when he retired. When he got older, he would refinish furniture.”John said his secret to a long life has been keeping busy with work and avoiding vices.”I liked to make things, and I enjoyed working with electricity,” John said. “I have always lived up to standards. One thing is, I don’t drink – I haven’t had a drink in 50 years. I never had a craving for it. I had some buddies who did. I saw four of them drink a 16-gallon keg of beer in an afternoon.”As his party ended with a “Happy Birthday To You” serenade, several Mason brothers approached John with a handshake and well wishes for reaching the century mark.One Masonic brother jokingly said, “John, I’ll see you in 100 years.”Still sharp at 100, he replied with a quick wit.”Why wait that long?” he said.Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518aclark@postindependent.com


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