BERWICK — The last time Bernard (Bennie) Cerullo received a summons from the U.S. government was in 1943, when he was 29 years old and Uncle Sam had issued his historic finger-pointing World War II declaration, “I Need You for the U.S. Army.”
As it turned out, he needed Cerullo for the U.S. Army Air Force.
That was then and this is now, and in that regard Cerullo opened his mail the other day and in it, 70 years later, he found another federal summons that said, in effect: “We want you for jury duty in the Middle District of Federal Court in Scranton.”
Cerullo is willing to serve. He rationalized, however, with a sarcastic grumble, “What the … ! Don’t they know I’m a hundred years old?”
On a space below a provision on the federal form that contained information that persons over 70 are exempt from jury duty, Bennie wrote a straight forward response: “I’m 100 years old!”
Actually, he has passed the century mark. Cerullo observed his 100th on Jan. 8 and in the process he became the second member of his immediate family to become a centenarian. A late older brother, Leonard, lived to 103 (actually Leonard died two months shy of his 104th birthday) and of two other surviving brothers, Joseph is 92 and John is 94.
There were eight siblings in the family of the late Antonio and Josephine Cerullo, who called 1125 Freas Ave. in Berwick home. The children also included late sisters, Mary, Phyllis and Caroline, and late brothers, Anthony and Frank.
In 1943, Bennie, being an athlete of some prowess developed through a regime of weight-lifting and exercise, was assigned as a physical training specialist. He progressed to the rank of staff sergeant.
When the war ended in 1945, Cerullo was honorably discharged. He went to work in the textile industry and at the the shops (the former ACF Industries in Berwick), but his real niche was found in sales.
Cerullo became employed as a traveling salesman for Cerullo Electric (now Grand Central) in Hazleton, and until age 80 he sold appliances, television sets and microwaves.
His marketplace was Northeastern Pennsylvania, including retailers in Columbia, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming, Susquehanna, Pike, Bradford, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Montour, Monroe and Carbon counties.
Many of these customers became friends, and as such, were specially invited guests (more than 100) at a surprise birthday party conducted in late October at Libassi’s Restaurant in West Scranton.
This affair was arranged by Cerullo’s son, Anthony, of Mechanicsburg, and daughter, Mary Ann Dent of Nazareth.
Then in January, Bennie threw another party; this one at the Maria Assunta Society in Berwick. The guest list included another 100 guests of family and friends and as well, many the cohorts and adversaries he developed as an avid golfer who played at many of the courses in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. But he is especially proud of having been a member of the Berwick Golf Club since 1946.
In spite of his age, Cerullo also remains a dedicated pinochle player. He hates losing (abhors losing!) and will play as long as his colleagues and relatives will show up at his 340 Washington St. home in Berwick.