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Newark Resident Celebrates 100th Birthday at Casa Israel

Read this article as it originally appeared on Local Talk News | Newark Patch

On his 100th birthday, after the singing and after the cake, Jorge Osorio rose to his feet, bringing calm to the normally vibrant community room at Casa Israel, the adult medical day care center operated by the North Ward Center.

But rather than preserving that calm, the centenarian—in line with an evident zest for life — broke out in song and lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of the timeless ranchera song, "Cielito Lindo," replete with the familiar refrain:

"Ay, ay, ay, ay. Canta y no llores." Sing and don't cry.

It's just another day for Osorio, but one that he's been looking forward to for months. "I started counting down the days about six months ago," he said. "And now it's here and I couldn't be happier."

Osorio said he's thankful for being able to reach this major milestone while surrounded by friends and his four daughters, Delila Gonzalez, Amanda Gomez, Carmen Britez and Rosa Osorio.

But the elder Osorio said he's thankful also for Casa Israel, located on Mount Prospect Avenue in Newark's North Ward.

"La Casa Israel es muy especial," he said, before switching back to English: "The service is so good and I've never had any problems here."

These types of services, Osorio said, represent why he and his family came to the United States from Columbia more than 40 years ago. "Things are so different in other parts of the world. Here, we don't have political unrest and our democracy works," he said.

"These are things he's never taken for granted," said Gomez, "and he reminds us of that every day."

In addition to leading the crowd in Happy Birthday (in both English and Spanish) and Cielito Lindo, Osorio recited "God Bless America."

"Forty years here in the United States—this country has been very good to me," he said.

He and his wife ran a warehouse in Columbia, supplying small markets with food and retailers with merchandise. "He had his business for more than 40 years, but when the economy turned south in the late 60s, he decided to come here," Gomez said.

In the U.S., he worked in a plastics factory as well as at the Cedar Hill Golf and Country Club in Livingston. He retired in his 70s and lived with his wife until her death in 2006. He now lives with his daughter, Ms. Britez.

"He's my hero—he's worked so hard and has always been so honest. He's cared for his family. It's the example all of us follow in our lives," she said.

Joining the Osorio family were state Sen. Teresa Ruiz and Newark Councilman Luis Quintana, who delivered a proclamation honoring the centennial birthday.

"We're celebrating 100 years of memories, love, pride and dignity," Ruiz said. "But we're also celebrating his family here at Casa Israel. Every morning when he arrives here, it's a ray of sunshine for him; a moment of hope," she said.

"I've received many congratulations today," Osorio said, "but Casa Israel is deserving of so much praise for all they do for me and everyone who benefits from coming here."

Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center, said it's important to mark special milestones like a 100th birthday.

"Our clients enjoy being recognized on special occasions," Davis said. "It's just one of the many ways we show that they are important to us and to thank them for choosing Casa Israel."

Casa Israel is a licensed day care facility for adults that provides high quality care for up to 120 patients per day. It offers clients exercise, Spanish classes, shopping, bingo, dominoes, arts and crafts, holiday celebrations and trips to local shopping centers. Casa Israel provides transportation to and from home and doctor visits.

"Casa Israel is a remarkable place," said Stephen N. Adubato, the founder of The North Ward Center. "I encourage residents in the community to visit us to experience all that we have to offer."