The "Great Joe Rollino" Dies at 104Posted on Jan 12th 2010 12:30PM by Deborah Dunham
Known to some as the "Great Joe Rollino," and even the World's Strongest Man, 104-year-old Joe Rollino died yesterday in Brooklyn, NY after being struck by a minivan.
The man of many names may have only stood five feet, four inches tall, but his 125-pound frame was packed with strength. He once lifted 475 pounds -- with his teeth. He also raised 635 pounds with one finger and used his back to move 3,200 pounds.
In the boxing world, he was known as "Kid Dundee" when he began to make a name for himself in the local circuit during the 1920s. And his strength made him one tough opponent. "Fighters would hit me in the jaw, and I'd just look at them," he told TheSweetScience.com in a March 2008 interview. "You couldn't knock me out."
As if that wasn't enough, he also bit down on quarters to bend them with his thumb, and friends joked that you couldn't let him shake your hand because he would break it.
But perhaps more importantly, he was an icon and a role model to so many. He was an athlete at heart -- one who prided himself on never using steroids to aid in his incredible physique and strength. Instead, the life-long vegetarian avoided alcohol, ate oatmeal for breakfast every day, swam laps year-round in the ocean (even when it was only six degrees outside) and walked five miles each morning. In fact, he was on his way back from walking to get the morning paper at the local deli, as he did each day, when he was hit.
"This morning he was bright and friendly like every morning," deli owner, Victor Oh, told the NY Daily News. "I see him every morning. I feel like one of my family died."
Long-time friend, Eileen Bille, who called Joe "Puggy", also stated, "He was a relic in the neighborhood. There's not a person from here to Bay Ridge who doesn't know him." "He was like a grandfather to my kids," said another friend and mother of five.
So, whatever name you knew Joe Rollino by, today we say "Good Bye" to a legend. "He was known as the Great Joe Rollino, and he was great," Louis Scarcella, a member of the city's oldest winter swimming club, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, where Joe belonged, told the NY Times. "You knew he was great just by standing next to him. He just had that humble confidence and strength. It shined."
Read about Ruth Frith, another incredible centenarian athlete.