If you know anyone who was born in Sonoma County in 1909 or earlier and who’s still here and who’s ready at the drop of a hat to venture out for lunch, I’d like to know him or her.
It’s a joy to know Art Janssen, the only soul I’m aware of who meets all the criteria above. At 108, the former banker, insurance exec and mayor of Sebastopol remembers everything, exudes gratitude and can’t wait for his San Francisco Giants to start spring training on Feb. 23.
Art lived for years in a care home on Santa Rosa’s Hoen Avenue but now he’s at one on Old Redwood Highway near Windsor. He said he likes the new place just fine, but unlike the home on Hoen, there’s no sidewalk out front.
While he was in Santa Rosa, he’d exercise by striking out with his push-walker and an attendant. To make his walk more fun, Art would head east, count off 260 steps, return to where he’d started, take 320 steps to the west, then return. That was a total of 1,160 paces.
Unable now to safely walk along the busy Old Red, Art rises from his chair nearly every day, grips the walker handles and steps in place, lifting his feet his customary 1,160 times.
He can’t see at all well and his hearing isn’t great, but at 108 he’s walking under his own steam and determined to do so for just as possible.
Art has friends who come take him lunch, his favorite spot being Louie’s on Santa Rosa’s West Third Street.
“Sometimes I have two scrambled eggs, sliced oranges and a glass of tomato juice,” he said. It’s a fine meal for a man who loves to eat but has outlived a fair few of his teeth.
Ask him his tips for longevity and he might mention also, “I eat a lot of fish. Fish, fish, fish.”
Art plans to dine at La Gare on Oct. 23, the day he turns 109.
AT THE SAFEWAY on Santa Rosa’s Yulupa Avenue the other day, Roy Germone stepped up to a checkstand and the checker asked him how was doing.
Roy, who was born in Sebastopol and for 34 years operated Germone’s Pharmacy in Santa Rosa, replied that he feeling well and, come to think of it, his 98th birthday was that very day.
The cashier excused himself, stepped to a phone, pushed the public-address button and announced that a shopper was turning 98, so would everyone in the supermarket sing him “Happy Birthday”?
“By the time I left the store,” said Roy, “I felt 18 years old.”
THE TRUE STORY that inspired journalist-activist Lois Pearlman’s one-woman play, “Last of the Red Hot Tenants,” was about the unmovable Jean Herman of Manhattan.
Remember her? Herman lived 30-plus years in a rent-stabilized brownstone on East 60th Street. When the structure was sold in the mid-1980s to make way for a 31-story office building, Herman, who was said to have rejected a $650,000 buyout offer, refused to leave the apartment.
Ultimately, the developer constructed the new building around the four-story brownstone. It’s quite a sight. Herman remained in the apartment until her death in 1988.