Centennial Celebration: New Canaan's Dante Chicatell

On Friday, Dante Chicatell was officially able to say he'd spent the last 100 years making friends. That afternoon, those friends paid back a little of the happiness he's shared with them all these years.

Chicatell, who was featured as a Face of New Canaan in March, was born in Stamford, grew up there, and then moved to Darien. He's worked at the YMCA for the past 13 years or so as their official greeter and all those people who've come to know and love Chicatell (and the different, creative hats he wears every day) gathered at the center to celebrate his big day.

"I've got all kinds of friends," Chicatell beamed, surrounded by family, friends and birthday well-wishers. "Young, old and medium."

Almost on cue to prove this point, some children from the Rainbow Station and the Y's Little Owls scampered up to Chicatell and presented him with a handmade scrapbook featuring hand prints and pictures a number of the program's participants had drawn for him.

Bright and vibrant, clapping along to music or displaying his special hat of the day, a "Happy 100th Birthday"-donned cake construction made especially for him, Chicatell said there was no secret to how he'd gotten along so far and how he'd be getting along for the next 100 years.

"I ride along naturally," Chicatell said. "Nothing fancy. Those days are over, the fancy days."

Though Chicatell did admit to enjoying the roulette wheel down in Atlantic City. His friend, Andrew Ivanyi jumped in and ratted him out.

"He's still chasing girls," Ivanyi said.

It was estimated 300 to 350 people had already come through the YMCA by noontime Friday. Then a flash mob appeared to perform a dance number for Chicatell to one of his favorite songs, Tangerine by Frank Sinatra.

"His only health issue is some sore knees from his time playing football," said his son-in-law Joseph Deleo. "They threw the mold away after him. He does whatever he wants and I've never seen him get angry. He never got angry like all of us, and I think that has a lot to do with why he's still here today. He's sharp, he's 100 and he always knows what's going on."

Other than visiting Atlantic City now and again so he can "work at the Y and then make a donation to the casinos," Chicatell said he really only had one other desire.

"I would like to visit Egypt," he said. "I've always had that on my agenda and never got around to it. Maybe one day. Or get on a slow boat to China."

Check out scenes from Chicatell's big day in the gallery above.


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