Secrets to a century from a paratrooper who survived yoga

Street Stories

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – When eight-year old Joe Gomes was running through the many open fields of Cranston in the Roaring ’20s, he didn’t even care what his next 92 years would bring.

“When I was a kid at that age, it was one of my most wonderful lives,” Gomes recalled. “I left in the morning and didn’t come back until dark.”

Parachuting out of planes, 73 years of marriage, children, five holes in one on the golf course, and of course, the Great Depression in ’29 were all in his future.

“We were poor. Winter was hard because no one was working,” Gomes said. “But in the summer, you had trees all over with peaches, pears, apples.”

And something Joe imagined was an ice cream cone, found in a field.

“I used to get a pepper. Clean it, Take the top off,” Gomes said. “Then, I put a small tomato in it and that would be my ice cream cone. We never went hungry.”

What he never imagined was doing chair yoga at Healthtrax as he reached the century mark.

“I didn’t think I’d be here at this age, let alone yoga,” Gomes said with a laugh. “It keeps me moving and flexible and it’s low impact.” 

But there he was, in the front row, stretching, breathing, smiling.

“Exhale,” the instructor said. “Now, imagine your back is a table. We might serve birthday cake off of it.”

Right after World War II hit, Gomes volunteered and went to jump school.

When reenforcements were needed during the Battle of the Bulge, Gomes was days away from jumping into Germany.

He didn’t get into the action, but Gomes admitted he “was a little bit disappointed.”

“Then I thought how many might’ve died,” Gomes said. “A friend who was on the boats on D-Day said the water was all red as they landed in Normandy. Imagine that.”

Waiting back in Rhode Island: Madeline, now 93.

(She was in the back row of the yoga class.)

They met at a dance hall, although she was sort of with another guy.

“We started dancing, and I never let her go,” Gomes said.

As far as that other guy?

“He wasn’t too happy,” Gomes said, chuckling.

After 73 years of marriage, and two children, they’re happy as ever as they celebrate a century of life.

His yoga class even sang “Happy Birthday” to him with a cake.

“Sometimes, it’s so long,” Gomes said. “And then other times, it went by so fast — 100 years, you know?”

His secret? Simple: “Moderation. And move and move and move. Don’t stop moving. If you stop moving, you’re lost.”

Gomes has no plans of getting lost as he pushes into his next century.

Email Walt at with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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