98-Year-Old World War II Veteran Working as Grocery Store Bagger Gets Surprise Birthday Bash

Playing WWII Vet Grocery Store Bagger Gets Surprise 98th Birthday Party at Work

He may be the oldest bag boy in the grocery store business.

Barholomew "Bennie" Ficeto turned 98 this week, and the World War II veteran has absolutely no desire to retire.

"You got to enjoy work, you got to enjoy what you're doing," he told CBS News as he bagged groceries. "I see people running around and saying, 'Oh, I have to go to work!' That's ridiculous."

The New Jersey man enjoys hard work, and he is always open to picking up an extra shift.

He's always been that way. At age 19, he joined the U.S. Air Force and became a pilot, flying a B-25 Mitchell medium-range bomber over North Africa and Italy. 

He remembers missing one raid because his hand was injured. The crew that went in his stead never came back. "They got shot down," he said. "They took my place because my hand was swelled up."

After the war, he held many jobs, he said, and in his 80s, he tried his hand at retirement. He quickly became bored. Ten years ago, he applied for part-time work at the Stop & Shop market in Edison.

His manager, Sal Marconi, says Ficeto is a model employee, and never takes his scheduled breaks. But on Tuesday, Marconi forced him to walk away from the checkout line. 

His colleagues had staged a surprise birthday bash for him, complete with USO singers who performed songs from the 1940s.

"Bennie's got a great sense of humor," his boss said. "He loves his job. He's a great inspiration and morale booster for everyone else."

Ficeto was humbled. "I shouldn't even be here," he said. "Yes, you should!" a co-worker replied.

The secret to living a long life? "Keep your mouth shut, and never, never contradict anybody," he said. "Just walk away from an argument. And everybody will love you and talk to you and everything else."

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