Paul Fazio, center, celebrates his 100th birthday with his family,...

Paul Fazio, center, celebrates his 100th birthday with his family, from left to right, his daughter-in-law Jeanie Fazio, granddaughter Caitlin Fazio, his son Tom, daughter-in-law Karen Semon and daughter Linda Fazio, in Northport on Saturday. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

On the eve of his 100th birthday, Paul Fazio reflected on the inevitable question centenarians face: What is the secret to live so long?

A World War II veteran from East Northport, Fazio said he never dwells on life’s problems.

“I have a zest for life,” he said. “I love to party.”

Wearing a sash over his sport coat that read, “100 never looked so good,” Fazio celebrated his upcoming milestone Saturday surrounded by family and friends at his son’s Northport home.

As guests enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, Fazio posed for photos and shared stories before his official birthday arrives Friday, which he will celebrate in Florida where he lives part of the year.

“I’ve been lucky all my life and this is the culmination of all the luck,” he said.

Fazio’s longevity comes as no surprise to his son, Tom Fazio, 70.

“There should be a pool to see how far over 100 he goes,” he said.

The zest for life is as strong as ever for Fazio. At one point during the party, he aimed a water gun filled with Champagne and fired a stream of alcohol at his son, who wore a protective poncho and glasses.

“Do it again, Grandpa!” his granddaughter Caitlin Fazio yelled, hoping to capture the moment on her phone.

The gag was the idea of Fazio’s grandson, also named Tom Fazio. He said they hold a “super soaker” challenge during Sunday brunch at That Meetball Place in Patchogue where he is the executive chef.

“He should get in on the fun,” the grandson said. “I brought some ponchos and goggles and he can shoot whoever he wants.”

Fazio, who still enjoys golfing, compiled a lengthy résumé over his 100 years, from World II pilot to educator. A talented athlete as a youngster, he volunteered from the armed services and was trained to fly fighter and bomber planes in the Army Air Forces, his son said.

Fazio had no prior flying experience before the war, his son said. A framed photo on display at the party showed Fazio in Montgomery, Alabama, as he climbed into a fighter plane during training.

Paul Fazio, seen here at San Giovanni air base in...

Paul Fazio, seen here at San Giovanni air base in Italy in August 1944, served on B-24 Liberator heavy bombers.  Credit: Fazio family

By the time he flew combat missions in Italy, he was a co-pilot on the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. His son said that due to the number of casualties Americans faced, the bomber pilots were in greater demand.

Fazio said he was treated “unbelievably beautifully” upon returning home from war.

“I volunteered and I would volunteer again,” he said.

He spoke proudly of his accomplishments as an educator, such as promoting opportunities through field trips. He was a teacher and a longtime principal in the Northport-East Northport school district. He has been retired since 1986.

“He was an innovator in his time,” Fazio’s son said. “And he’s justifiably proud of it.”

Sue Asher, a close family friend for close to 40 years, said people still recognize Fazio around town as their former driver’s education instructor.

He only gave up driving earlier this year.

Jeannie Fazio surprised her father-in-law by playing a rendition of the Five for Fighting song “100 Years.” Seated outside on the back deck, Jeannie played guitar while singing to Fazio just a few feet in front of her.

“What a great song,” an emotional Fazio said as she finished. “Thank you one and all!”

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