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Ross Township resident still going strong at 100

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Club Julian general manager Mike Savrese (right) chats with Eugene Mariani on his 100th birthday, Monday, March 17, 2014, during a birthday party at the Ross Township fitness center.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Eugene Mariani of Ross Township eats some cake on his 100th birthday, Monday, March 17, 2014, during a birthday party at Club Julian 24 Hour Fitness in Ross Township. Despite his age, Mariani still is a regular at Club Julian.
Eugene Mariani of Ross Township (right) kisses Club Julian 24 Hour Fitness manager Pam Van der zee of Pittsburgh during a party for Mariani's 100th birthday, Monday, March 17, 2014, at the fitness center in Ross Township. Despite his age, Mariani still is a regular at Club Julian.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Eugene Mariani of Ross Township (right) chats with his son, also named Eugene Mariani, of Mt. Lebanon, during a party for his 100th birthday, Monday, March 17, 2014, at Club Julian 24 Hour Fitness in Ross Township. Despite his age, Mariani still is a regular at Club Julian.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Eugene Mariani of Ross Township (left) tells a joke to the Rev. Fred Schenker of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wexford during a party for Mariani's 100th birthday, Monday, March 17, 2014, at Club Julian 24 Hour Fitness in Ross Township. Despite his age, Mariani still is a regular at Club Julian.

Eugene Mariani walked into Club Julian at about 2 p.m. March 17, just as he does every Monday.

But unlike most of his gym visits, he was greeted by balloons, gifts and a cake that read “Happy 100th Birthday Eugene.”

Mariani, a Ross Township resident and regular at Club Julian 24 Hour Fitness, celebrated his milestone birthday with his son, also named Eugene Mariani, 73, of Mt. Lebanon and gym regulars.

“We were going to put candles on the cake, but there's a fire code in here,” Club Julian manager Pam Van der zee, of McCandless, joked after giving Mariani a kiss on the cheek.

Mariani made his rounds through the crowd of about 20 to shake hands and tell jokes.

“Everyone here loves him,” Van der zee said.

“He's so spot-on young at heart.”

Mariani isn't just young at heart, he's more active than the average centenarian.

“I feel good,” he said. “I've been coming here 35 years.”

Mariani walks about a mile a day, visits Club Julian in Ross three times a week, enjoys crossword puzzles, drives and attends a few Pirates games each year.

“My brother said, ‘Don't go to the gym with him,'” Mariani's son said. “He couldn't keep up with him. He said, ‘You'll die.'”

Mariani also plays bocce under the Bloomfield Bridge in Pittsburgh once a week in the spring and summer.

“It's an old man's game,” Mariani said of his bocce skills.

“Yeah, it is, and you beat just about everyone at it,” said his son, pointing out that his father once beat former Steeler Larry Foote.

“We've got a rubber match planned,” Mariani said.

Mariani was born in San Pietro Avellana in Italy in 1914. He came to the United States with his family in 1928, when he was 14. They settled in Bloomfield, where he still goes to church at St. Maria Goretti Parish.

He worked as a printer's assistant and at a few odd jobs before beginning a career as a barber and opening his own shop in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood.

In the early 1950s, Mariani moved his family to Babcock Boulevard in Ross Township and continued to cut hair out of his home.

Mariani now only occasionally cuts hair for members of his family, which includes the sons and daughters of his 10 siblings and his own two sons.

“I think he has a secret he's not telling us,” his son said.

Mariani's Italian roots might play a hand in his longevity. He eats a clove of garlic before bed each night and drinks a glass of wine with dinner every night.

“No one believes me, but (garlic) is the best thing for a cold,” Mariani said.

Mariani is looking forward to the return of his bocce games and the Pirates' season this spring. He thinks they'll be all right “if they get good pitching.”

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at kshea@tribweb.com or at 724-772-6353.

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