Cheers to many years: San Benito resident celebrates 100th birthday

Santiago Ortiz of San Benito celebrated his 100th birthday on Dec. 30. He’s pictured with a photo of him and his late wife Luisa, who he was married to for nearly 80 years. (Courtesy photo)

SAN BENITO — From treating himself to a cup of coffee paired with sweet pan dulce to sitting outdoors when the weather is nice, Santiago Ortiz always makes sure to live in the moment and enjoy every experience.

This past week, the San Benito resident celebrated a very special occasion that’s one for the books.

On Dec. 30, Ortiz commemorated his centennial birthday and turned 100 years old.

Ortiz and his late wife Luisa were married for nearly 80 years.

In 1961, the couple moved from Bishop to San Benito, where they have resided ever since and became members of the Saint Theresa Catholic Church.

Ortiz’s caregiver Christina said he had a career in agriculture that spanned several years.

“He would tell me stories about his work in the agriculture department,” Christina recalled. “He would show other young workers how to make the fly-traps that they would put out into the fields.”

Christina says Ortiz is still very active and loves to make people laugh by telling jokes.

When he’s not telling stories to his loved ones during get-togethers, Ortiz likes to keep busy by doing a bit of cleaning around the house.

He can often be found organizing the clothes in his drawers or dusting the cases of his frequently played CDs.

“He enjoys listening to all kinds of music like Ana Gabriel and Patsy Cline,” Christina said. “He really loves music and knows how to play the harmonica.”

Ortiz is described as someone who often looks very dapper.

“He likes to dress,” Christina said. “He’s always been one to wear suits, ties and hats. He’s really good at dressing up nice.”

When Ortiz isn’t cleaning or planning his next outfit, he’s often watching documentaries on Animal Planet or his favorite TV shows.

“He really enjoys watching American Ninja Warrior and Impractical Jokers,” Christina said. “We laugh and talk about what’s happening in these shows so that’s always fun.”

Ortiz and Luisa have nine children, 22 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren.

Ortiz’s grandchildren describe him as a being a pillar of wisdom and strength in their family.

They said they feel truly blessed and cherish his love, laughter and all of the stories he’s shared.

Christina said Ortiz’s family feel very happy to see him celebrate another momentous birthday.

“When we go to the clinics for doctors appointments, everyone is so surprised with his age and how good he still looks and by how active and talkative he is,” Christina said. “I feel the same way. It’s amazing to see.”

Ortiz believes his secret to living such a long, happy and healthy life is avoiding stress.

“He has told me that he believes it’s because he doesn’t really stress about things as much and doesn’t allow himself to get stressed,” Christina said. “When I bring up his age and ask how he feels, he tells me that he thanks God for allowing him to live this long.”