A California WWII vet who ran the Nuremberg Opera House — welcoming the likes of Mickey Rooney and Bob Hope — turned 103 last month. Now, he's sharing his tips for a fulfilling life — which include good food, good wine and a wonderful wife.
"I’m Italian, so pasta is the first thing that comes to my mind," Sam Avolicino of Danville told Fox News Digital.
"I enjoyed my mother’s food for so long. As a kid, I grew up with good, homemade pasta and the Italian custom was you drank a little wine with water because it’s good for the blood. So, maybe that’s an excuse, but it’s OK."
Avolicino also credits his "wonderful wife" Agnes, to whom he’s been married nearly 72 years, for his long and adventurous life.
"The greatest thing in my life is that I was able to be married for 72 years with my same wife," Avolicino said.
Agnes Avolicino was by her husband’s side when he accepted the key to the city of Danville on his 103rd birthday.
"The mayor of Danville came with another gentleman to celebrate my 103rd birthday and to celebrate Veteran's Day because I served in World War II," Avolicino said.
"They presented me with the key to the city of Danville. That was a great, great thing."
Robert Storer, mayor of Danville, California, presents Sam Avolicino, 103, the key to the city in honor of Avolicino's birthday. (John Avolicino)
Born in Santa Maria in the Calabria region of southern Italy in 1920, Avolicino immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island when he was only three months old.
He and his mother landed in New York and took a train to Oakland, California, where they joined his father and some other family members already living there.
Avolicino grew up in the Bay Area. He's lived there for over 100 years.
"I enjoyed school and I was very fortunate," Avolicino said. "I became class president and I was a yell leader."
Sam Avolicino (in front row, wearing hat) sits beside his wife, Agnes. Standing in back are the couple's four children (left to right), Steve, Sandy, Mike and John. (John Avolicino)
Avolicino said that during the war, he volunteered in the Army Air Force.
He was a physical training instructor and trained troops while stationed in St. Petersburg, Florida.
"My CO wanted to find a person that could lead a yell," Avolicino said.
"Every day we had training and we had drills. And I taught them some yells and some songs and things like that."
Sam Avolicino (right) worked as a physical training instructor in the Air Force in St. Petersburg, Florida, during WWII. (John Avolicino)
After attending the School for Physical Training in Miami, Avolicino was transferred to Fresno, California, then Glendale, California, and finally Fort Dix, where he prepared to go overseas, he said.
"I landed in France one day before the war was over," he added.
"So I got reassigned to special services and my CEO assigned me to the Nuremberg (Nürnberg) Opera House to entertain the troops while we waited to be shipped home."
During his time at the opera house in Germany, which had been taken over by the Americas by the end of the war, Avolicino helped welcome American entertainers like Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Mickey Rooney and the Rockettes — all of whom flew across the globe to perform for the troops.
"It was very exciting," Avolicino said. "Bob Hope and those people, they had their entourage and I just stuck around with them. I directed them and showed them where to go and so forth and so on."
Avolicino said the Germans had access to the opera house one day a week when they continued to put on their own operas and ballets.
"I made arrangements with the Germans to have the theater on Wednesday afternoons to put on anything they wanted to play. Then they would present the same thing to the GIs if they wanted to see the opera or the ballet and things like that."
Avolicino even arranged for the first Christmas mass in the opera house, which took place in 1945 as many of the troops were still waiting to go home.
Sam Avolicino is photographed alongside his wife Agnes, to whom he’s been married for 72 years. Avolicino credits his wife for his adventurous life. (John Avolicino)
Avolicino met his bride, Agnes, back when he was in Glendale, before he got shipped to Fort Dix to go overseas.
"I met her family, this beautiful family, at a party and I went to Mass," Avolicino said. "They asked me to come over after Mass, and so I did. From then on, there was a relationship with the family and that's where I met my wife. We kept in touch all that time."
Avolicino admits it was his wife who wrote letters and kept the relationship alive while he was overseas.
He saved her love letters and has kept them to this day.
He continued to stay in touch with her while he was traveling.
He went into a parts supply business with a friend, which took him to Okinawa, an island off Japan. After a year of overseas travel, he came back to California and asked Agnes to marry him.
"And we've been up in the Bay Area all our lives," he said.
Sam Avolicino and wife Agnes, to whom he’s been married for 72 years. (John Avolicino)
The Avolicinos have four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. One of his sons, Steve Avolicino, said that even though his dad traveled a lot, he was always a big family man.
"He covered the 11 Western states traveling for a major parts department for cars, trucks and trailers," Steve Avolicino told Fox News Digital.
Sam Avolicino loved coaching his sons, Steve and John, in little league baseball. (John Avolicino)
"He was gone every other week, but he still found time to be a baseball coach," said the son.
"He also worked from home and so I had the benefit of hearing him on the phone and how he interacted with people. Later on in my business life, I was able to emulate the man that he was — and so that was always very helpful in my life."
Whether coaching or working with the church, Avolicino always made time for his family and others — and truly loved doing it all.
"He just loves life and he loves living," John Avolicino told Fox News Digital.
"That's always stood out for me. He enjoys every day. Right now, he's in three different football pools and he's on the computer all the time. His newest thing now is he makes his own [greeting] cards with his own sayings."
Sam Avolicino's advice for those younger than 103 years old is centered around both faith and family. (John Avolicino)
Avolicino’s advice for younger generations is to focus on family and faith.
"I recommend all children pick up on God, start to believe in the hereafter and go to church," he said.
"Pray every night," Avolicino added.
"God’s been the most important person in my life. Respect your parents and listen to your parents. Don’t let outside influences get to you, which is very difficult today."
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