AYER — Resident Ernie Blasetti puts most to shame with the miles he covers on his bike every day. Taking advantage of the Rail Trail, Blasetti often bikes 10 to 12 miles each time he goes out — not bad for a 92-year-old.
When asked how he does it, Blasetti shrugged and said simply that he enjoys it.
Coming of age in town during the Great Depression provided him plenty of glimpses at true hardship. Having graduated in 1934, Blasetti remembers a time when riding his bike was an activity done out of necessity, not for recreation.
After holding down a paper route for years, Blasetti, the second of nine children, came to know everyone in town and made friends easily. Still, he said he was grateful to land a job pumping gas in Fitchburg for $2 per day.
He worked seven days a week, he said, and his money went into the family coffers.
“We knew what it was like to work,” he said. “Everybody worked. Everybody pitched in.”
During World War II, Blasetti was a Navy Seabee. He served in the Solomon Islands, Talaki and Okinawa from 1943 to 1945. Reluctant to share details of this time, he said being away really made him appreciate coming home.
Upon his return, Blasetti got married and raised a family. His wife stayed home with their children until they went off to college, then she returned to her chosen profession of nursing.
Blasetti worked as a bus driver for 40 years, retiring in 1981. During that time, he said he got to know almost every rider on his routes. He was also the town’s first van driver.
Blasetti proudly said his children had everything, but were still taught to have a good work ethic.
Asked if he felt his generation missed out on some of the things today’s children take for granted, he said, “No. We didn’t have those things. (We) didn’t even know they existed.”
A big fan of progress, Blasetti said one of the first big items to break into his generation was the radio. One didn’t waste a lot of time analyzing these new inventions, he said, “you just lived with the times.”
Having spent many hours splitting and stacking firewood, Blasetti said he also appreciated the improvements to heating and cooking that came with oil and gas.
Today, Blasetti is still a busy man. Widowed in 1977, he said he enjoys spending time with his eight grandchildren and many friends. Still driving, staying social is natural to a man who once knew everyone in town, so he has lunch at the Senior Center every day.
When asked the secret to having such a long, healthy and productive life, Blasetti credited clean living and not wasting time worrying. He also noted the importance of keeping his family free of financial trouble.
His advice for living day to day is to always have a plan.
“I never changed anything about my life,” he said.