Five months have passed since coronavirus precautions persuaded one of New Jersey’s most senior supermarket employees to step aside.
On Sunday, on Bartholomeo “Bennie” Ficeto’s 99th birthday, his many admirers — friends, family, colleagues and customers — joined together to honor him in a very public way.
Dozens of vehicles, including at least one fire truck, paraded past Ficeto’s home in Perth Amboy for what was described as a surprise birthday party for the War War II veteran who never wanted to retire and, in his late 80s, launched an improbable new career bagging groceries at Stop & Shop.
Ficeto stood on his front deck, waving, above a banner reading, “Honk, it’s my birthday” — not that anyone needed any encouragement.
Long before arriving at the Stop & Shop in Bloomfield in 2009, Ficeto operated a power press machine for the Lionel Train Company and supervised for L’Oreal, the cosmetic company
He transferred to the supermarket’s store in Edison in 2017, in order to live with his family.
Working two per week, four hours per day, Ficeto became known as “Bennie the Bagger,” lauded for his unwillingness to take even a 15-minute break and ambition of working until his 100th birthday.
“What am I going to take a break for? That’s a waste of time,” Ficeto told NJ Advance Media in 2019.
The coronavirus pandemic forced a change of plans. Due to safety concerns, Ficeto was persuaded by his family to take a break.
Will he return to the job someday? No one is ruling it out.
Sunday, though, was all about getting the chance to say thank you, and show appreciation, for a job well done.
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Rob Jennings may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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