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Founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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Our June calendar - Mr. D

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 Fermin Montes de Oca, 105
 Mr. D's
Wonderful Life

      Fermin Montes de Oca was born on Pine Street in Tampa, Florida, on December 14, 1903. His family’s name – Montes de Oca, meaning forest of oak - speaks volumes about this 105 year old, who is affectionately known as Mr. D around his retirement center. Mr. D, like the sturdy oak, has been a stalwart for his family. For him, family means everything.
        By the age of 10, Fermin’s work ethic had already taken root. He and his brother shined shoes outside a cigar factory, charging a nickel for black shoes and a dime for brown. After shining 12 to 15 pairs of shoes, young Fermin would race home and joyfully give all of his earnings to his mother. 
        When he was 15, his father moved the family back to his native Cuba and young Fermin went to work for a cigar factory.  He met the love of his life at an early age and they were married for 76 years.  They moved to New York where he got a job as a barber at the  Waldorf  Astoria Hotel.  Mr. D  has  lots  of  stories about

  Mr. D
Fermin Montes de Oca - "Mr. D"

the many famous people he met there, including Gary Cooper, Al Jolson, Douglas Fairbanks and many other celebrities.  Gary Cooper became one of his regular customers and they developed a rapport; the actor nicknamed Mr. D “Shorty.”
        After WWII, Mr. D and his family, which now included two sons, moved back to Tampa.  His uncle ran a nightclub at Rocky Point where the movie “Hells Harbor” was being filmed.  On a visit to the set, Gary Cooper recognized his friend “Shorty” and rekindled their friendship. 
        Mr. D was a cigar maker for 39 years. During his last few years, before machines replaced his craft, Mr. D worked in the shipping area, where he personally mailed off cigars to Winston Churchill. He never smoked a cigarette or cigar in his life and he never stopped serving others.
        Mr. D built his own home, where he and his wife raised their two sons.  In the backyard of the new home were fruit trees, and each week he would hang bags of fruit on his neighbors’ doors. Today, members of those families still visit and write.
        His goal throughout his life has been to bring beauty to others through his prolific paintings of landscapes given to friends, his joyful singing of inspirational songs – most recently “What a Wonderful World” – and his faith in God. Over the years, he has volunteered for many jobs and organizations, but none have meant more to him than the “Country Store” he opened and runs at the retirement center where he has lived for several years.  His store provides some necessities and lots of “treats” for the residents, including his very popular "Mr. D’s  Popcorn."  For years, he has risen each morning at 4:30 a.m. to make the fresh popcorn to sell during the day at his store, which is staffed with other volunteers. At the end of each day he gives the proceeds of the store’s sales to the hospice workers.

Mr. D with photos of his family 
Mr. D with a few family photos.

        “The people depend on me,” he says of his rigorous schedule. It was even difficult to get him to take time off to celebrate his 105th birthday. But, every week he does make time to share a meal with his son who comes to visit. 
        The walls of Mr. D’s apartment are covered with photos of his family.  “They mean the world to me,” he says, with pride.  This Father’s Day will be filled with the laughter and storytelling of his son,  six grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren, and his special gift – a great, great granddaughter who will turn one year old this month. 



Respecting the privacy of this centenarian and all centenarians on our website, we ask all media (or other businesses) to please direct inquiries to Lynn Adler:

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