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The CENTENARIAN



Paul Esaian

Paul Esaian, who was presented a bat when named Legionnaire of the Year in 2007, wears his favorite Yankees jersey given to him by his teammates. GREG GARDNER

BY GREG GARDNER

At 100 years old, Paul “Paulie” Esaian is an inspiration to the Port St. Lucie teammates he plays softball with two days a week.

Known by his teammates as “The Legend,” Esaian began playing at the age of 72 in the Spanish Lakes senior softball league, which is the oldest on the Treasure Coast, going back more than 40 years.

While the league is for players 55 and older, batters can choose to have pinch runners run the bases for them. Base paths are shorter with rules changed so there is no possibility of collisions between fielders and base runners. The league is always looking for players, especially in the summer when fewer players compete.

Normally Esaian opts for a pinch runner, but on a recent steamy summer morning, he beat out his hits, going four for four with a run batted in. And he played in the outfield the entire game. For his 100th birthday, the players chipped in and bought the Yankees fan a No. 7 pin-striped jersey in honor of his favorite player, Mickey Mantle.

Three days a week, Esaian hits the gym at the Port St. Lucie Community Center, concentrating on leg exercises.

“I just like to keep an eye on him because he is mind-boggling, but I also want to make sure he is exercising properly,” said Steve Levy, a personal trainer who set two powerlifting records three years ago at age 65. “He is devoted to the gym and an inspiration to young and old. Paul’s biggest message is ‘get off the couch.’ He is an inspiration to me every day. He is still active at 100 years old. He does not play around. He has a routine to keep him walking and getting stronger. If you can get people to walk properly, it cuts that fear of falling. No matter who you are, there is hope to better yourself physically and lead a more productive and healthy life.”

Esaian played golf until three of his buddies in their foursome died. Although he is passionate about softball, there are plenty of other activities to keep him busy. Calling himself a “fusspot,” Esaian enjoys puttering around his home, which has a pool he and the grandchildren use.

He does his own housekeeping and the home looks like the maid just left. He vacuums and mops the floors. He does his own light gardening and a few years ago he painted the outside of his house. Esaian drives a Jaguar and is proud of the sticker on the back that shows he has donated seven gallons of blood. He loves to show his driver’s license, which is valid until 2023.

Before his wife died at age 90, she made their daughter Carol promise to cook for Esaian after she was gone, telling her that he is helpless in the kitchen. Carol brings his lunches and dinners over three days a week from her home three streets away. He makes his own breakfast.

Esaian was born on the Fourth of July, 1917. When he was deferred from the Army during World War II, he worked as a machinist at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. He then spent a career as an automobile exporter and restorer of classic cars. After retirement, the couple traveled by car to all 50 states and made trips to Europe, Asia and Africa. They also took 25 cruises.

“The ships they have now make the ones we sailed on look like lifeboats,” he said. His favorite place was the ancient Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. “I will never forget the massive construction that went into them. We went inside the burial tomb. No history book can describe it until you see those massive boulders with your own eyes,” he said.

While he wears glasses, Esaian hears fine and has never smoked or had surgery. “I don’t have a hearing aid. I hear what I want to hear,” he said. The only pills he takes are CoQ10 vitamins and he has never used a wheelchair. When a doctor tried to get him to take some thyroid medicine, Esaian said, “No, thank you.”

After a recent game, Esaian joined his fellow ballplayers for snacks. He cracked open an orange soda, scraped the salt off a pretzel and nibbled on it along with three small potato chips. After only a few sips of the soda, Esaian dumped the rest out as a demonstration of moderation.

Diet is the key to longevity, according to Esaian.

“What you eat is very, very important,” he said. “No fried foods, not a lot of meat. Statistics show 60 percent of people are overweight or obese. I read a lot of medical writings. People are not eating the right food. It is garbage, the ingredients in processed food. I have been eating yogurt all my life. My wife used to make yogurt. Eating the proper amount of food is important. Some people eat until they can’t eat any more.”

The local Loyal Order of Moose recently held a dinner in honor of Esaian, who has served in almost every capacity since he moved to Port St. Lucie 27 years ago. “I was overwhelmed by the turnout, so I was unable to say what I really wanted to say,” he said.

Keith Headley is the administrator at the Moose lodge, which depends on volunteers to handle 97 percent of its activities. “Paul does a lot of things for the lodge. He is head of the ritual team that does funerals. He has run the monthly bingo luncheon from the beginning. He has put on the Easter and Christmas parties for the kids. He has been a past governor and junior governor. We would be tickled to death to have more volunteers like him.”

“Paulie is fun and we have a lot of laughs,” said Henry Camire, commissioner for the Spanish Lakes softball league. “He takes a good joke and we love throwing parties for him. And he has to make it to 105 so we can buy him a matching pair of Yankees pants.”



PAUL ESAIAN

Age: 100
Hometown: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Retired automobile exporter
Hobbies: Softball, Moose lodge activities
Family: Son, Phillip, daughter, Carol; four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren
Something most people don’t know about me: “I went to Egypt and saw the pyramids and climbed to the top. It was quite an experience. I have traveled to all 50 states.”
What inspires me: “I’m not the ballplayer I was 30 years ago, but I am inspired to be on the field with the rest of the guys.”