Supermarket has surprise birthday celebration for 98-year old grocery bagger

Bennie Ficento

In your late 90s, you might want to relax -- but not Bartholomeo “Bennie” Ficeto.

Two days a week for four hours a day he is at a New Jersey supermarket – cracking jokes and bagging groceries.

Ficeto has worked at the Stop and Shop in Edison for 10 years.

His time manning a gunner for the U.S. Army during World War II taught him all about hard work and a sense of gratitude after he survived getting shot down.

“The Lord took me home. All the missions I flew,” he recounts.

So it is only fitting, that a man who nearly gave his life for his country got a surprise: a red, white and blue-themed party for his 98th birthday.

“Surprise,” his coworkers yelled in excitement Tuesday at Ficeto’s party, which featured the USO singing some of his favorite songs while he tapped his feet – a moment that brought tears to his eyes as memories started flooding back.

“I think it’s pretty nice thing. I never expected anything like this,” Ficeto said.

Ficeto’s beloved coworkers and favorite shoppers all showed up to celebrate him.

“He’s just so sweet,” shopper Darlene Healey said. “We always tease him and talk to him. Every time we come in we give him a hug.”

“He’s become a local celebrity so we want to give it back to him and throw him this party. He deserves it,” Stop and Shop manager Sal Marconi said

On Ficeto’s special day there were balloons, treats and lots of hugs. He even got a lotto ticket.

And although it was his day, Ficeto, who is not one for breaks, passed up on his birthday cake to get back to work heading over to his checkout stand where he received another special “thank you” from a fellow veteran.

“You earned your keep,” the veteran told Ficeto.

The popular grocery bagger has no plans of slowing down, since, according to him, retirement is at least two years away.

“I’m going for 100. If I make 100, I’ll be satisfied,” Ficeto said.

When his actual birthday rolls around on Thursday, you can expect Ficeto to be smiling and bagging groceries.

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