Frank Iacono is a humble man; he doesn’t think he’s special. Many people would disagree, however, including the president of the United States.
“This is a birthday card that came from President Obama,” boasted Mary Iacono, Frank’s wife of nearly 66 years. “He even signed it.”
The card sits on the Iaconos’ dining room table in their Providence home, along with a myriad of other citations, cards and other correspondence Iacono has received since he celebrated his 100th birthday back on June 21.
“I’m just a small guy,” Iacono insisted. “I’m the same guy I was 10 ... 20 years ago. It’s not a great deal.”
Don’t try telling that to Vito Saratelli, who directs Iacono and other talented musicians who make up the Providence Civic Orchestra for Senior Citizens.
“He’s a very talented violinist,” said Saratelli. “He’s one of our charter members when we founded this orchestra back in 1977. He’s been our concert master since I began conducting 22 years ago. Frank is a remarkable man. His dedication and loyalty to the orchestra is extraordinary.”
Iacono’s talent is well known, as is his passion.
“Frank loves to play music for the enjoyment of others. He practices his violin every day. That’s been part of his daily routine for as long as I can remember,” Saratelli said.
Iacono also has a passion for his faith, and has been a longtime alter server at St. Agnes Church in Providence.
“He’s the oldest alter server in the world,” joked Saratelli. “He’s been doing that at weddings, funerals and regular masses for years and years.”
Iacono received a Lucite award from his St. Agnes parish family.
Another lifelong hobby of the musician’s is gardening.
“He just may be the oldest gardener in Rhode Island. He has a wonderful garden in his backyard. He grows peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, parsley and even arugula. He’s also very, very proud of his fig tree,” Saratelli said.
So Frank Iacono, who started playing the violin when he was 13 or 14 years old after being taught by his brother, is known as a master concert violinist, master gardener and alter server who has lived to be 100 years old.
But what’s his secret to that long life?
“A happy heart gives you a healthy body,” Iacono said. “You’ve got to love everybody. I had good parents. They taught me we’re all God’s children and we’ve got to love them.”
That attitude has lasted him a century without any medications.
“The only pill I ever took was a baby aspirin ... I take one every day,” he said.
Frank Iacono, a retired Chief Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force, also credits his extraordinary health to his wife Mary’s cooking.
“My wife’s a great cook ... I eat Italian,” he said, hugging his wife before adding, “I’d rather have Mary’s pasta or pasta e fagioli than steak.”
Iacono was born on June 21, 1912, and grew up on Federal Hill. He spent 32 years in the Air Force and has been married to his wife for nearly 66 years; their anniversary is in October.
“The first 100 years have been great,” said Iacono from his garden. “The next 100: I don’t know!”
Iacono is destined for more honors when the Providence Civic Orchestra for Senior Citizens holds its 36th annual Pops Concert on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, 399 Fruit Hill Avenue in North Providence.
“The concert is our major fundraiser of the year,” Saratelli said. “We’re hoping all our friends – new and old – come to the concert and enjoy the show and take in a special presentation to Frank Iacono.”
On that day, Iacono will be honored with an outstanding achievement award.