In his day as a Coney Island strongman, Joseph Rollino is said to have bent spikes and coins with his mouth and lifted 600-pound weights.
Early Monday, walking to buy a newspaper, Rollino, 104, was fatally struck by a minivan at 13th Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, police said.
Rollino was crossing from the north to the south side of Bay Ridge Parkway when he was struck by a green 1999 Ford Windstar, investigators said. Rollino was knocked unconscious and was unresponsive when emergency medical teams arrived, having suffered multiple fractures and head trauma, according to police. He was taken to Luthern Medical Center where he died hours later, police said.
The driver of the Windstar remained at the scene and police said no criminality was suspected.
Rollino's death jolted the world of bodybuilders and strongmen.
"It was always remarkable how on top of his game he was," said Terry Todd, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, where he is director of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports.
Rollino excelled at lifting heavy weights, Todd said. Reports had Rollino back lifting 3,200 pounds at a body weight of around 175 pounds and a height Todd estimated to be 5-foot-5.
Police and news articles put Rollino's age at 104, although that couldn't be independently confirmed. He reportedly was born in 1905 in Brooklyn, one of 14 children.
Rollino would attend annual gatherings of the Association of Old Time Barbell and Strongmen and enthralled the crowd with recollections of historic feats of weightlifting, Todd said.
"He is kind of a marvel to everyone in the game," Todd said.