A sense of humor can take you far in life. This is what I learned Monday night, when I experienced the rare treat of attending Guido Corriero’s 102nd birthday party at the Woods at Canco in Portland. The dinner party attracted more than 100 guests, many of whom also live at the posh 55-plus community. In addition, Portland’s Mayor Nick Mavodones and Corriero’s son Guy Corriero and daughter-in-law Sharon Corriero, who live in Portland, turned out for the festivities. After dinner, we enjoyed a performance by bluegrass band the Saccarappa Boys.

The party was organized by the complex’s enrichment coordinator Angela Langley and managers Rick and Diane Piecuch.

“He’s our oldest resident,” Langley told me. “We won’t have another 100th birthday for three years.”

Before I had a chance to meet the birthday boy, I chatted with a number of folks who live at the Woods at Canco complex.

“He’s so funny,” Charmaine Carter told me. “And he’s sharp as a tack.”

Even though Guido has only lived at the Woods at Canco for a little more than three years, he’s quickly become part of the community’s social fabric.

“Everybody knows Guido,” Ruth Baker told me. “He’s an amazing guy. He’s lots of fun.”

To this Lillian Stevens added, “He’s a very sharp dresser, too.”

When I asked Ralph Rich, who recently turned 90, why so many people at the Woods at Canco live such long lives, he quipped, “It’s the food and the good living.”

He’s got a point. Like other independent living facilities I’ve visited over the years, the Woods at Canco offers the friendly feel of a college dorm, but with much cleaner and better appointed facilities, and waiter service in the dining room.

When Guido arrived, he made his way through the crowd shaking hands with the many guests who wished him well. At his table, he was greeted by Naomi Moore of Allagash Brewing Company, who presented him with a 24-pack of Allagash White and a gift box filled with Allagash merchandise.

Moore told me Allagash couldn’t pass up the opportunity to present him with this gift, since “there’s a picture of him drinking Allagash White on the wall at the Great Lost Bear.”

This beer should come in handy on Tuesday nights, when he gathers with a group of guys for a beer dinner, and on Thursday nights, when the Woods at Canco host its weekly happy hour.

I had the good fortune to be seated with the guest of honor, his son and daughter-in-law and the mayor. This is where I got the scoop on lots of fun and fascinating stories from Guido’s very colorful life.

“Many years ago, 50 maybe, he wrote to General Motors to say they should put seat belts in cars,” Guy told us as we enjoyed a dinner of lentil soup and a choice of a cheeseburger and fries or turkey tetrazzini.

“And years later, they did,” Sharon added.

Guido, a retired dentist who went back to work at the age of 80 after his wife of 56 years, Evelyn, passed away, invented a dental extractor that’s named after him. The New York native told me he often used hypnosis on his patients as an alternative to anesthesia.

Sharon and Guy also shared an amusing tale about a 10-hour car trip Guido tricked them into taking so he could purchase a piano built in 1846.

Once his wife, who was the antique buff in the family, passed away, Guido said, “I took a picture of it and called up the Metropolitan Museum and said, ‘Would you like it?’ They said, ‘We’d love it.’ The funniest part is they sent me a bill for the moving costs.”

More recently, Guido, who is an amateur artist, submitted a drawing to the bench competition Portland is holding for the new Bayside Trail. No word yet on what the Public Art Committee thinks of his submission.

After the whole room sang “Happy Birthday,” Mayor Mavodones took the microphone and told the crowd: “He has so many great stories. He and his family moving here are quite an asset to Portland. I hope to be back next year.”

Finally, I asked Guido the question we were all wondering: What is his secret to longevity?

“The good Lord pointed me out to St. Peter,” Guido told me with a twinkle in his eye. “‘See that little guy over there? He’s been very bad. Give him time for redemption.’ That’s what it is. I have nothing to do with it.”

His chuckle told me otherwise.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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