The bouquet of red flowers bobs in his right hand as John DaVanzo of Mineola waits for the door to open at the home of his former high schoolteacher, who in later years became a friend.
A home-care attendant opens the door and DaVanzo, 90, scoots in to greet Beatrice Hubbard, now 105, who's sitting in an easy chair, watching one of her morning television shows.
This visit is like many that DaVanzo has been making about twice a month for the past several years, and the banter between the two longtime Mineola residents is gentle.
"Oh John. Not red roses. I told you not to. Thanks," she says as DaVanzo smiles.
Such visits are more than emotional boosts, experts say. "They absolutely are the key to successful aging," according to Dr. Suzanne Fields, chief of the Division of Geriatrics and General Internal Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
"Making social connections, remaining active in the community, doing crosswords, exercise, exercise. That's what keeps people going," Fields said. "Volunteering and helping out in the community are also important to successful aging, so in this case, it's probably also good for the 90-year-old."
DaVanzo was a star athlete at Mineola High School in the late 1930s, and Hubbard was his teacher for several classes, including bookkeeping and math.
After Navy service in World War II, he worked in a family business, joined the Mineola Fire Department and was elected to several local offices, including town clerk of North Hempstead. His wife died 17 years ago.
Hubbard continued to teach at the high school until her retirement in the 1960s, just after she turned 60. She never married.
Their paths crossed often in Mineola at civic and charitable events over the years, but DaVanzo began visiting Hubbard at home -- he's not quite sure when -- as her health and mobility began to falter.
"I still get out a lot," Hubbard told visitors, but the folded wheelchair and walker nearby were evidence of her frailty. "I love to read, but my eyes aren't what they used to be. I still read the newspapers, but just the headlines." And maybe, there are other things that gratify: A small pillow on the couch nearby is embroidered with these words: "Happiness is eating fudge."
Sitting side by side and talking for almost an hour Thursday morning, the two old friends were at a loss to explain how their bond formed.
"He has always been so kind to me," Hubbard said, her hand often patting his. "Just to see him. For him to visit, is a pleasure."
DaVanzo told her that she will be soon getting a letter from the Friends of the Mineola Memorial Library to thank her for her support. "They tell me you're still a dues-paying member," DaVanzo said.
Hubbard's only living relative is her nephew, David Waters, who drives up to see her about every two months from his home in Rockville, Md., often accompanied by his wife, Suzanne.
"My aunt has always appreciated his visits," Waters said of DaVanzo in a telephone interview. "She does mention him a lot, and it's an emotional lift for my aunt."