Rogelio Diaz, formerly of Westfield, celebrated his 106th birthday today, surrounded by family and friends at Ashbrook Care & Rehabilitation Center in Scotch Plains.
Also sharing the spotlight is fellow resident and birthday girl Alice Ragner, of East Orange, who turned 104 on Halloween.
The two were the centers of attention as family, friends, and caregivers joined them to celebrate their latest milestone.
“We are pleased to help celebrate the lives of two of our distinguished residents, both centenarians, at this birthday party with family and friends,” said Steven Furman, administrator at Ashbrook, which is located at 1610 Raritan Rd., Scotch Plains. “At Ashbrook and all Windsor Healthcare communities, we value every individual in our person-centered approach to care.”
Rogelio worked in a variety of jobs in his lifetime from tool and die worker to being a grocery store owner. He immigrated to the United States in October of 1929, and taught himself English by reading the New York Times and talking with locals. He and his wife Consuelo married in 1932 and eventually started a family grocery store in 1941.
Rogelio and his wife then moved to Westfield with their four children and Mrs. Diaz’s father. On March 1, 1943, Mr. Diaz earned U.S. citizenship. That same year the Diaz family rented and then bought a colonial house at 124 Elizabeth Avenue, Westfield, in which their fifth child still lives today. Diaz lived there for 28 years and raised his five children. All of his children graduated from Westfield High School. When he retired from Alcoa Aluminum Company, he began dabbling in the stock market. He moved to Miami and then relocated to Warsaw, Little Lake Chaplin, IN. He moved to Ashbrook Care & Rehabilitation Center this year.
Rogelio has 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. According to his son, John Diaz of Westfield, he made it to this milestone by keeping up good health and living a clean life, drinking very rarely and quit smoking when he was 35. “He was just a regular guy. He owned a Model T Ford and used to take us to the beach in the Model T’s rumble seat,” John said. He liked to garden and was handy with his hands.
His son said he was a great chess player. “We played chess, and he beat me all the time. Believe me, I didn’t let him.” He was also a good checkers and card player.
Most of his children attended his 106th birthday party at Ashbrook today.
The other centenarian being recognized today was Alice Ragner, who was known as Miss Alice or Mrs. Ragner. She was born in Roxboro, NC, and worked there for a year or two after finishing school at Fayetteville State Teachers College, according to her daughter, Joyce Hooper of Monroe Township. Alice decided to teach third grade after graduating. She wound up teaching third graders for 35 years.
Every summer she would travel to Chester, PA, where her first husband Jesse Brooks worked at Scott Paper Company. She and Jesse had one son, Theophilus. She claimed her dedication was to people in North Carolina, which led to her divorcing her first husband, her daughter said.
In 1966 Alice and her second husband, Rufus Ragner, moved to East Orange, NJ, where she continued her career as an elementary school teacher for another two years. She lived in East Orange for 47 years.
In 2000, Alice and Rufus moved to Ashbrook Care & Rehabilitation Center. When Rufus died two years later, Alice stayed on at Ashbrook. Her daughter said she would not hear of leaving Ashbrook, and to this day lives in the room she shared with her husband.
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A family-owned company, Windsor Healthcare provides clinically sophisticated sub-acute care, as well as comprehensive nursing care, in facilities throughout New Jersey. Windsor Healthcare takes pride in adopting progressive thinking in healthcare models and partnering with the most well regarded medical providers in the state. With leadership experience in the short and long term care for 35 years, Windsor Healthcare has the resources and capabilities to provide the highest quality care through a full range of services.