Longtime Escondido resident Irwin Wertheimer turned 100 and celebrated his birthday at his local 24 Hour Fitness gym, where he works out several times a week.
“Why not?” Wertheimer said. He was headed there for his hourlong Monday morning workout anyhow. He drove there as usual and brought along his dog, DJ, a Pembroke Welsh corgi.
But in addition to exercise, there was more in store for Wertheimer.
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara presented Wertheimer with a certificate in honor of his 100th birthday and called it “Irwin Wertheimer Day.”
Wearing a black sports cap and sash, saying “100 Never Looked So Good,” Wertheimer got cheers from several dozen fellow exercisers and the gym’s staff.
“Irwin is one our favorite members at 24HF as he is always smiling and so happy, especially on Fridays when he brings DJ, his corgi. His secrets to living a long life: ‘try to be happy, don’t hold grudges, never smoke and have a healthy diet,’ ” said Chris McClure, general manager of the Escondido La Terraza 24 Hour Fitness gym.
Wertheimer, who has been going to that gym for more than 20 years, takes three senior fitness classes per week; two cardio classes and one yoga class, each an hour long. Up until about five years ago, he used to also swim, and when he was younger, he ran and played football.
“You gotta exercise,” Wertheimer said. Along with his workouts, he takes walks — about 1.5 to 2 miles a day, all around his neighborhood.
The 100-year-old exercise buff is an inspiration to others in his classes, where he is the oldest participant.
“Irwin has been a member for over 20 years with 24HF — about 20 percent of his life — just goes to show you that regular exercise will help you live longer and happier,” McClure said.
Exercise is top on the list when Wertheimer is asked about the secret for a long, happy life. But there’s more he said.
“Live one day at a time and be happy,” Wertheimer said.
“Good food and an optimistic attitude are important and don’t smoke — I lost my wife because she smoked,” said Wertheimer, whose wife, Marilyn, died at age 81 three years ago.
Wertheimer, who lives independently in his house, prepares his own meals and makes sure they are healthy. A typical breakfast includes salmon with broccoli, sprouts, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes and almond milk and maybe a poached egg, but no bacon. For lunch he often has soup and a banana, and for dinner, meat, chicken or shrimp. He drinks lots of water and has wine (no beer) only for social occasions and drinks green tea (no coffee).
Working has kept Wertheimer young.
“Work is stimulating,” said Wertheimer, who didn’t stop going to the office until he was 89.
His son took over 15 years ago as CEO of the Escondido-based family business, Count Machinery Inc., but Wertheimer kept working there doing his part. The company produces print finishing products ranging from binding and perforating to numbering for the Graphic Arts Industry worldwide.
He jokes that he never worked a day in his life since he enjoyed his work.
“To me work is a challenge. I loved it,” Wertheimer said.
After World War II, and after serving as a Navy corpsman at Great Lake Navy Base in Chicago, Wertheimer started working as an inventor. He worked on updating printing press machines to be more efficient. Wertheimer, who has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Northwestern University in the Chicago area, worked with an engineer to design one of the first bimatic numbering machines that goes forward and backward.
Wertheimer, who was born in Cleveland, is planning a huge family birthday party in September with three younger siblings, who are all over 90. His siblings, along with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are slated to travel from across the country and around the globe for the event.
Wertheimer continues to keep his mind sharp with his hobbies, collecting stamps, beer cans and other items and attending senior classes at California State University San Marcos through the Osher lifelong learning program. He has taken classes, for example in Greek and Roman History and the history of religions.
“It is important to be inquisitive and stay interested in the world,” he said. “I don’t like the situation with the war. I wish people made love instead of war.”
Wertheimer’s advice: “You gotta laugh. You only go around once so be thankful and enjoy the days you got.”