ROMEO group celebrates birthday of their oldest member
WAVERLY, N.Y. - It isn't every day that one might have the opportunity to celebrate a milestone such as that achieved by Allan "Doc" Dimon of Waverly, N.Y. on Thursday - the celebration of his 95th birthday. And looking more youthful as the years pass by, and as sharp as a tack, Dimon also had the opportunity to celebrate this milestone surrounded by some of his closest friends - the ROMEO's, or Retired Old Men Eating Out.
Gathered around a group of tables pulled together in the center of Becky's Diner on Broad Street on Thursday, Dimon sat with his friends at the head of the table. The crowd inside Becky's Diner was heavy as well, with many there for the celebration of Dimon's 95th birthday which was Tuesday, but celebrated on Thursday, and others just dining who would soon find themselves joining in.
Dimon, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in his younger years, and then operated as an optometrist in a building now occupied by the Sayre Library, has spent some of his best moments since his retirement at that same table, with ROMEO members who have become his most loyal and faithful friends.
"I can't believe it," said Dimon when asked how he felt about Thursday's celebration. "A lot of them are the next generation of ROMEO's," Dimon added.
"When you get to be my age, your peers are all gone," he noted of turning 95. In fact, he added, there are only two that he is aware of that are still alive from his Waverly High School Class of 1936. "Out of a class of 72, there are only three of us left," he added.
But this milestone and celebration, for the ROMEO's, is significant. With 10 current members, the group, according to member Dan Leary, tries to keep that number and simply passes the hat. Dimon is their oldest member, with Gary Zenker being the youngest at the age of 57.
Leary also talked of how birthdays are important for the ROMEO's, with the next coming up on April 6 for Art Ayres, who will turn 79. After that is another birthday in April for Jim Raftis. "We get a reprieve in March," Leary added.
But on Thursday, it was all about Dimon. With a cake prepared by Dessert First on Broad Street in Waverly, the ROMEO's were passing birthday cards around, and anxiously awaiting a slice of cake.
Most interesting, with the ROMEO's, is their thoughtful planning when it comes to birthday cards. All making a mockery of aging, this year's cards were all different. But that isn't always the case, according to Leary.
"One year we all planned to get the same card for one of our members," Leary stated about the humor the group maintains. Dimon agreed.
"They help keep you alive and going," Dimon said of the ROMEO members.
And with formalities upon them Thursday, such as the reading of proclamations received from State Senator Tom Libous and Waverly Mayor Kyle McDuffee, it was time for Dimon to address those who gathered.
As quiet fell among the crowded table, and amongst the others in the Waverly diner, Dimon calmly announced, "I just got my license renewed, and I'm good until 103."
Across the room, you could hear another ROMEO member telling a guest, "He can probably run circles around most of us."
No one can imagine, without being in his shoes, what it feels like to be 95 years old; so they asked. "Turning 95 feels just about the same as turning 94," said Dimon. And with the renewal of his license, he's not planning on passing on the ROMEO hat anytime soon.
Dimon said he has been blessed in his life with good health, and noted that most of his physical problems happened at a very young age in life.
"My problems happened when I was young, like losing my left thumb in an accident at the Towanda narrows," said Dimon. "Other than that, I've been lucky."
Dimon's life has been impressive. Serving 47 months in the Army Air Corps, with 17 months of this served during World War II in France, Dimon spent his time in the service flying and bringing back the wounded.
Upon his return to the Valley, Dimon operated as an optometrist in Sayre and retired in 1988. His nickname, "Doc," was a carryover from his years in business.
Dimon is not only the oldest ROMEO, he's also the oldest living member of the Waverly Methodist Church. Dimon also service in the Waverly Rotary Club, was a school board member, served BOCES, was a member of the Waverly Community Chest, an avid supporter of Waverly sports, and was - most importantly - a founding member of the ROMEO group.
Dimon has a son Craig, a daughter Linda, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Dimon's son Jeffrey died last year at the age of 68. On Thursday, his daughter Linda was celebrating by his side.
With little or no effort, Dimon blew out the candles on his cake as his crowd of friends stood by. "He's still got it," said many in the group as they applauded their oldest ROMEO.