ASHTABULA — A much-loved great-grandfather who says he never thought he'd live to see 100 celebrated the milestone with family and friends Thursday morning.
His children hosted a surprise party for Ashtabula resident Ross Tittle, who turned 100 Thursday, at Kardohley's Family Restaurant on West Prospect Road.
"He can be found eating breakfast at Kardohley's every morning, doing the crossword on the home computer and watching his favorite TV shows," said his daughter, Lorene (Beany) Rapose. "He still lives at home alone, drives and attends First United Methodist church on Elm Avenue every Sunday morning."
Tittle called the party, "a big surprise," as he found himself surrounded by loved ones, tables filled with goodies, party hats, balloons and presents.
He believed the celebration couldn't be topped after he received a visit Wednesday from Fox 8 TV News morning anchor Stefani Schaefer.
Then to have 60 people attend his party — some from as far away as Georgia and Missouri — was the icing on the birthday cake.
Tittle delighted party-goers when he sang, "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)."
"He sang in the church choir for more than 60 years," Rapose said.
A widower 21 years ago, Tittle and his late wife, Edythe, reared three children. She was an elementary school teacher for Ashtabula Area City Schools. Their two daughters also became teachers, Lois Zook in Michigan, and Rapose in Ashtabula.
His son, Vaughn, was an Ashtabula High School football star and ended up playing both football and baseball at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve). He later became a judge in Conneaut. He died in October 1988.
Tittle, who was also a star athlete in his younger days, served as treasurer of the Little League in the 1950's when his son played for the Tigers.
Now, he's the proud grandfather of Stacey Lazarow, Julie Koschik and Melissa Barrickman. He's also "grandpa-great" to six great-grandchildren.
An avid sports fan, Tittle still cheers on the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Boston Celtics.
"He's a wonderful father," Rapose said. "He doesn't hold grudges and he always sees the best in everybody."
Tittle was born in Ephratah, New York, became an Eagle Scout in 1932 and graduated from Johnstown High School in New York in 1935. After high school, he traveled to New York City to study violin, hoping to make it a career.
When that didn't work out, he joined Burroughs Adding Machine Corp., and transferred from the branch office in Erie, Pennsylvania, to Ashtabula in 1950 because there were so many businesses and banks in Ashtabula that used the Burroughs machines.
"Through the years his job changed from servicing adding machines to the early computers," Rapose said. "Every day he was his own boss and always learning new things."
He worked for Burroughs until his retirement. Then, he got out his violin and played with the Ashtabula Chamber Orchestra for many years.
As for his considerable age, Tittle credits a hearty breakfast — consisting of oatmeal topped with blueberries — for his longevity.
In his lifetime, he said the internet is the most remarkable invention, making it possible to get information in seconds "on a little device you can hold in your hand."
Kardohely's waitress Susan Laine said Tittle is a delight to serve and he's become popular with the staff.
"He's a sweet old man," said Judy Tyson, another waitress.
Rapose said her father's independence is in part possible because of the restaurant's kind staff. They call her if he's late or doesn't show up for breakfast.
"They deserve a lot of credit," she said. "We couldn't do it without them."