NEW YORK (WABC/CNN) – It’s one of the least likely places you’d find a 97-year-old budding celebrity.
Bartholomew Ficeto is a star at the Stop & Shop in Edison, NJ, where he bags groceries two days a week. The World War II veteran is a hit with customers and colleagues alike.
Some even stop and ask him for autographs.
“I’m handsome,” he said.
Ficeto, who goes by “Bennie,” is very proud of his years. He lives his life with his age as a fact, not as a factor.
Bennie has been a part of the Stop & Shop family for nearly 10 years. He used to be at another store, but then his family moved closer to Edison, and all that meant was a job transfer.
“Bennie’s a joy, he’s full of life, he’s happy,” store manager Sal Marconi said.
Ficeto said a recent article in the local newspaper, the Star-Ledger of Newark, about his work makes him “proud.” It made him something of a local celebrity.
“I’m in awe of him, that he’s still able to move around at 97 years old,” one customer said.
He leaves people in awe when they learn that he was a gunner on a fighter plane during WWII.
"I was scared every time I had to get into the plane," he said. "But the lord took me back."
He considers himself a lucky man.
"The day I didn't fly, they shot my plane down," Ficeto said. "And I don't know where they went down."
A man who sees himself as a veteran and duty-bound American, Bennie looks forward to every day.
And he said he’d keep working “until I drop dead.”