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His friends call him "The Kid," even though Gene Scala of Westbury just turned 106 years old. Meet the eccentric former musician who has a flair for dressing. Greg Cergol reports.
Gene Scala's friends call him "The Kid," even though he just turned 106.
"It's amazing because he never looks a day older," marveled his grand-niece, Donna Murphy.
Family and friends gathered Monday at Gene's home on Long Island, the Arbors Assisted Living Facility of Westbury, to ring in his big day with a chorus of "Happy Birthday."
"You're very inspirational to all of us and you're doing better than most of us," said one of Scala's nieces.
It's no exaggeration.
At 106, Scala still competes in a bowling league once a week. He's the oldest active bowler in the U.S., with a 140 average, according to officials at Arbors.
The former tailor still makes his own matching hats, ties and belts. He has more than 60 sets of the wildly colorful, beaded accessories.
"I like clothes," Scala said. "They make me feel good."
The former musician also still plays the saxophone, 70 years after first performing in a New York City nightclub.
"Music has always been the best thing in my life," said the Italian immigrant, who said he first came to the U.S. from a town near Naples, Italy in 1921.
He has outlived his five brothers and two sisters, three wives, three children and one grandchild; but, he is still visited by nieces, grand-nieces and several generations of Scala family members.
"He is like the family historian," said niece Marianne Baker. "He remembers everything exactly as it happened."
Scala worked as a beautician in New York City and East Islip until he was 100. He owned his own shop for most of that time.
His secret to longevity: "Be nice to everybody. Don't ever have any arguments."
"I'm the only one in the family who never had an argument," he says.
Scala hates doctors, according to Murphy, and the only medication he takes is a daily baby aspirin.
He stopped smoking at age 40 and doesn't drink.
According to Baker, Scala hopes to live longer than any other man.
"That's up to God," said Scala. "I don't know how long I have but I hope to stay around a little longer."