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P. C. man celebrates 100 experience-packed years
By Claire K. Racine
Port Chester Trustee Luis Marino (left) and Mayor Neil Pagano (right) present Margarito Rivas (center) with a proclamation declaring June 10, 2013 to be Margarito Rivas Day in the Village of Port Chester in honor of his 100th birthday.
Margarito Rivas moved to Port Chester in 1976 from Guatemala. That, in and of itself, would not be unique to a village with a thriving immigrant population. What is amazing is that he moved to a new country when he was 65 years old and recently celebrated 35 years in Port Chester and 100 years alive.
"One year after Senor Rivas was born in 1914, World War I started. Thirty years later, World War II started. I'm not suggesting Margarito Rivas had anything to do with this," Port Chester Mayor Neil Pagano said with a chuckle. These events just show some of the obstacles Margarito had to overcome in his life, Pagano said.
Pagano was one of several local politicians to join in celebrating Margarito's 100th birthday with his friends and family at the Port Chester Senior Community Center on June 15.
"You've not only lived a long life, you've done wonderful things in your life," said State Senator George Latimer, who presented Margarito with a proclamation declaring his birthday, June 10, to be Margarito Rivas Day in New York State. It was similarly declared that June 10, 2013 be Margarito Rivas Day in Westchester County, Rye Town and the Village of Port Chester.
Margarito's daughter Christina moved to Port Chester 42 years ago.
"It is different than when I came to this country," she said. "We know it's changing because they translate everything and it's beautiful now."
"Port Chester has changed," Margarito said. "Before, the young people were in a lot of trouble, but now it's more controlled."
Christina encouraged her parents to relocate to the village when the 1976 Guatemala earthquake destroyed her father's shop.
"He had a store, but the earthquake, they lost everything," said his daughter Martha.
Margarito did not grow up in Guatemala City, but rather, in the countryside.
"When he was younger, his father, my grandfather, had a farm and he took care of the vegetables. That was his life," Christina said.
Margarito then joined the Guatemalan army, and when he got out at age 20, he married his sweetheart, Virgillia, who is now 97. Together they had seven children, Martha, Christina, Harold, Raul, Rubin, Sergio and Roberto, the latter who has since passed away.
"I'm the youngest. Can you imagine?" said 63-year-old Sergio, who came down from Montreal for the birthday celebration at the senior center.
Among their children, Virgillia and Margarito also have seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
"He was a good father. He was very strict with us. He would say something one time. If he said, 'Do it,' you did it," Sergio said. "He showed us how to be honest and how to be good, hard workers."
After moving to Port Chester, Margarito worked at United Hospital for 10 years and at IBM for another nine years.
"He still works," said Port Chester Trustee Luis Marino. Marino, a volunteer firefighter, often sees Margarito outside cutting the grass since he lives right next to the firehouse on Grace Church Street, which is how the two became "close friends."
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