‘Don’t give up:’ Milwaukee man born in Puerto Rico celebrates 107th birthday

Benigno Velazquez

MILWAUKEE -- After more than a century -- and counting -- a Milwaukee man is celebrating a major milestone. Born in Puerto Rico on Feb. 13, 1912, Benigno Velazquez turned 107 years old last week.

"A few months before Titanic sank," is what helps his granddaughter, Evette Arvelo, remember the date.

Velazquez has called Milwaukee 'home' since the 1960s, working at Peter Engineering for many years.

Evette Arvelo

"Life was rough in Puerto Rico, so he pretty much came down here to work and provide for his family," said Arvelo.

Today, he lives with his granddaughter Evette -- one of many to carry on his story.

"Close to 50 -- 50 grandkids," said Arvelo.

Velazquez said that there isn't just one secret to a long life and good health.

"I don't smoke. I don't drink," said Velazquez.

Arvelo said her grandfather visits the doctor every three months, keeps tabs on his glucose levels and still counts his pills every morning. He also maintains a good sense of humor. On Monday, Feb. 18, he even paused at the kitchen table to laugh about the snowfall.

Velazquez said one of his favorite things to do is eat.

"I eat rice, meat... all kinds of meat," said Velazquez.

Above all, he cherishes time spent with family.

"We take him everywhere we go. He was just at Mall of America with us two and a half years ago," said Arvelo.

The trip to Mall of America resulted in a 3D mold of Velazquez.

"I think what keeps him going is that he has the kids around, and he still wants to help," said Arvelo.

Helping one another stay strong -- year after year.

"Through the worst storm he has been through, he still teaches us, 'you keep going,'" said Arvelo. "'Don't give up. Don't give up.'"

Arvelo said the whole family plans to celebrate Velazquez's 107th birthday with a party in the spring, when things warm up.

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