Pat Romano balances a plate of chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream as he sits in a cushioned chair, flanked by loved ones and smiling widely for a short photo session at his birthday party.

He’s ready for his close-up — well, as ready as he’ll ever be.

“I don’t have much hair,” he says.

But the longtime Santa Monica resident isn’t completely bald, his thin white strands doubling as a glowing frame around his face. Nor does he look like he’s turning 102.

His durability was a reason for celebration Friday afternoon at the offices of WISE & Healthy Aging in Downtown Santa Monica, where the people who see Romano on a daily basis gathered to celebrate a man who was born during the Woodrow Wilson administration.

There are roughly 55,000 centenarians in the country, comprising about 0.02 percent of the nation’s population, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report issued last year. And more than 80 percent of them are female, making Romano an even rarer specimen.

Romano doesn’t have any secrets for his longevity, or at least any that he’s willing to share, but he says staying away from tobacco, traveling around the world and trying to maintain a positive attitude have probably helped his cause.

Wearing a red and gray argyle sweater over a striped collared shirt, dark pants and black slip-on shoes, Romano takes time between short conversations with friends to share stories about his life.

Born in Brooklyn on July 18, 1913, he is the youngest of five children and the only one still living. All of his siblings made it into their 90s.

Romano attended Erasmus Hall High School, whose list of former students also includes music icons Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, among other dignitaries.

During World War II he served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, leading to a long career in interstate commerce. He ran a freight and transportation consultancy before retiring in his 80s.

California has the country’s largest portion of centenarians with more than 5,900, according to 2010 census data, and Romano is a proud member of the club. A former elder at First Christian Church, he has called Santa Monica home since 1966.

“I was tired of New York City,” he says.

He and his wife, Doris Claire Romano, were married for 69 years. She passed away four years ago, living past her 94th birthday despite going through several packs of cigarettes a day.

“I don’t smoke at all,” Romano says. “I wouldn’t touch the stuff.”

These days, Romano lives with his daughter, Janice Schutz, in Santa Monica. He also has a son, Ken, and a grandson, Eugene Georgescu, who is an Air Force pilot.

Three days a week he spends time at WISE & Healthy Aging. He loves eating Subway sandwiches. He enjoys listening to songs by Patsy Cline.

Socorro Vallejo, a volunteer at the locally based social services nonprofit, said she’s constantly impressed by his dominance in dominoes, Romano’s favorite game.

“He always wins,” she says. “And I’m playing fair. He’s really good.”

Romano also likes watching “Boardwalk Empire,” a television show that has brought forth memories of growing up during Prohibition. He recalls that his father, Giuseppe Romano, a schooner captain who immigrated to the United States from Italy, used to bring home marsala wine bottles in wooden cases.

Decades later, Romano waves at a digital camera and pauses to assess his wellbeing.

“I’m feeling fine,” he says.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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