Ralph Abenante will tell you over and over again that he has had a wonderful life.
Born in 1928, Abenante learned the value of hard work early in life. His school days included a before-school job peddling bread and an after-school job as a clerk at a soda fountain. Abenante enlisted in the Navy at 18.
“When I die tomorrow or the day after, I have no regrets whatsoever. At 95, I don’t have a pain in my body, I’m healthy, I can do everything I want to do. I have a good family,” Abenante said.
At 95 years young, Abenante plays pickleball every morning at Bloomingdale East Park and then works out at the Campo Family YMCA. His day begins with coffee and exercise, stretching and lifting weights at home for half an hour. He’ll listen to the news, have breakfast and work on a crossword puzzle before heading to the courts.
“The thing is, if there is something that is why I am why I am, it is because I exercise every single day. I have never ever stopped. I love it,” Abenante said.
Exercise has been part of Abenante’s entire life. He started playing tennis when he was young and didn’t stop until he was 90. He was champion in the over-40 division in the Navy. In his 70s, he was the No. 2 ranked tennis player in Florida.
Abenante served 30 years in the Navy, retiring as a chief warrant officer in 1975. He skirted death more than a few times in the military. He served in the Korean War and Vietnam war. He was in the 2 percent of the Navy selected to be an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer. With his EOD division, he traveled all over the eastern hemisphere detecting, disarming and disposing of explosive threats. He was on the diving team that salvaged artifacts from Modern Greece, a screw steamship used during the Civil War. He was on the recovery team after the Ohio River Silver Bridge collapse.
Abenante wrapped up his Navy career assigned as Secret Service for President Richard Nixon. He was awarded the United States Secret Service Director’s Honor Award, the highest award given to a Secret Service member, for saving the lives of 11 Secret Service members who were trapped in a crashed helicopter.
Abenante described himself as an adventurous type and said he has been very lucky. He strongly believes that family and relationships are important and being in the present moment is the best way to live.
“If you live in the past, you will never make it in the present,” Abenante said. “I am not the originator of that, but it is very true. People have a tendency to say I wish it was this way or that way. If you live that way, you’re not going to make it.”