“Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings… Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying.”
Robert Roche was the first firefighter to arrive. He also was one of the first firefighters to enter the burning apartment building. And because he did, a woman who depends on a wheelchair for mobility is alive today. He’s not, however, just a firefighter. Roche is an assistant chief of the Knoxville Fire Department, based at headquarters downtown.Assistant chiefs are not typically the first on the scene of a fire and rarely the first of the firefighters to enter a burning building with heavy black smoke rolling and flames roaring, as this apartment building was.But enter it he did … on his hands and knees … and returned on his hands and knees with a woman on his back.
He still works full time, putting in 40 hours a week.His advice for living so long?“Well I advise a lot of people not to quit working. Keep busy. Some retire too soon and they get old fast,” Mancinelli said.Mancinelli started cutting hair at age 11, 96 years ago.“I wanted to help out in the family,” he explained.He went on to have a family of his own, and was married for 69 years.“I miss her. I go to the cemetery every day before I go to work,” he said.His son Bob is 85.“He is in better shape than I am. He is still going. Still working five days a week,” Bob said. “I retired when I was 81.”Mancinelli has no plans to slow down, saying he’ll keep going to keep the younger generation looking sharp.He’ll turn 108 in March. He lives on his own and drives himself to work every day.