Merrill Gardens resident Roy Marenco never thought he'd live to be so old.
The father of 10 proudly celebrated his 90th birthday Tuesday surrounded by family members and friends.
"I never dreamt I would grow this old, but it's okay I've gotten my share of life," the birthday boy said. "I'd do it all over again because I enjoyed being a part of it,"
Roy was born May, 8, 1922, in the Bay View district of San Francisco, Calif.
"My earliest memory in life was of sheep running down our street, and we used to have to run in the house to get out of the way."
He spent his childhood in San Francisco until 1942 when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and was stationed in Alabama.
He worked as an electrician and crew member aboard B-29s and B-24s.
"I was patriotic at the time. I was 20 years old when I enlisted and had to get my parents permission to join," he said. "I felt I was doing my job for my country."
Roy received an honorable discharge in 1946 and began his 32-year career at Pacific Telephone retiring as a PBX installation foreman.
In 1948 he married his wife of 56 years, Virginia Janowicz, and they raised 10 children together until her death in December 2003.
"It was love. That's what we did. We loved our children so it was very easy for us," Roy said. "There was never a time we didn't have what we needed. I don't know what I'd do without them."
The family lived in Southern California until 1989 when Roy and Virginia moved to Gardnerville to be near family.
Daughter No. 8, Jeanne Cooley of Carson City, remembers as a child having to do a family count off before they went anywhere. One time, though, they forgot.
"They left me behind at a cousin's house, and didn't realize it until they got to the restaurant and there was an extra hamburger," she said smiling. "When they came back I was eating a big bowl of ice cream."
Although she has long since forgiven her father for leaving her behind, she still lovingly holds a grudge over how many times he has told the story.
"It's (90th birthday) a great thing," Cooley said. "It's wonderful he's still going strong. I'm so glad I have a dad like him."
Daughter No. 3, Virginia Towner of Gardnerville, credited her father's longevity to genetics.
"His mom lived to be 96, so I guess he inherited good genes," she said. "He was a great provider and a loving dad. We always felt loved and cared for. It's amazing he's doing so good. He's had a good life."
Along with Cooley and Towner, Roy's children include Paula, Linda, Steve, Greg, Andy, Jim, Vicki and Marian. He also has 30 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
Merrill Gardens General Manager Joan Anderson said Marenco is one of many characters at the facility.
She specifically remembers a 1950s-themed ice cream social they had.
"He came dressed in a white T-shirt with a deck of cards rolled up in the sleeves and a vest," she said, "so now we're calling him Fonzie all the time. He's a doll and very creative."
Roy moved to Merrill Gardens in 2010 where he is active at St. Gall Catholic Church and other activities.
As for the secret to a long, happy life, Roy had a few suggestions.
"Enjoy every day of your life," he said. "Don't waste your time, and save your money. Education is important, too."