Vince Pesky celebrates 99th birthday
On the brink of a milestone, Vince Pesky, a longtime Portland educator and sports aficionado, reports good news from inside his assisted living home.
"They're taking good care of me," said Pesky, via a video interview conducted by the good folks at Regency Park Assisted Living and Memory Care on Southwest Barnes Road, just outside Beaverton. "I think I'm doing well. I want to thank them for being nice to me. So far (COVID-19) hasn't affected me, but I feel sorry for those it has affected.
"Sometime they'll come up with something to kill the COVID, and maybe I'll live to be another 100 years."
Indeed, Pesky turns 99 on Friday, Aug. 21 — a year away from being an official centenarian. Initially, Valerie Hurst, Regency Park community relations director, set up a drive-by parade for Pesky's 99th birthday so he could sit and watch well-wishers cruise by. But the parade had to be postponed because of health protocol at the home.
"He is very dear to all of us here at Regency Park," Hurst said. "We are so disappointed that we have to put the birthday party on hold, but hope to still hold it once we get through the testing of all our residents and staff."
Pesky worked for 44 years with Portland Public Schools, much of it at the old Marshall High School. He's been a staple of the Portland sports scene — athlete, hockey fan, famously the brother of the late Boston Red Sox great Johnny Pesky and a Portland Interscholastic League Hall of Fame member.
Assisted living and rest homes are full of people with such stories, and they are quarantined these days and unable to see visitors and family and friends. In Pesky's case, he has a lot of friends, but he, as the youngest of six children, has outlived his siblings and never married or had children. He now needs the assistance of a wheelchair, and a visitor needs to talk a bit louder to be heard.
He was pretty tickled, then, to do a video interview with the Tribune, Hurst said. He's always been an affable, approachable fellow and a joy to talk with for anybody.
Author Don Nelson wrote the book "Sons of Slabtown and Tales of Westside Sports," which told stories of the families of the Northwest Portland neighborhood and how the kids gravitated to the Vaughn Street Ballpark and the Portland Ice Arena (at 21st and Marshall). Among those kids were the Paveskovichs, namely Johnny (who officially changed his name to Pesky) and Vince (who also goes by Pesky).
Nelson worked with Vince Pesky upon the elder stateman's move to Regency Park, and he has curated a treasure trove of his photos and memorabilia from the garage and basement. It's a peek into yesteryear for somebody who admittedly likes to "live in the past," and Nelson said he has enjoyed his time visiting with Pesky.
"It gave me the inspiration to do the book," Nelson said.
"He's a very interesting man. He's got a quick wit. Without ever marrying or having kids, he played a very important part of people's lives. ... Vince likes to tell jokes and share stories from the 1940s."
Johnny Pesky died in 2012 at age 93. A sister, Catherine, lived until 103 before her death a couple years ago.
Vince Pesky has a pat answer about the question of what helps Paveskovich siblings live long into their twilight years.
"My mother and father (Jakob and Maria Paveskovich, Croatian immigrants) were very good cooks, and my father especially," he said. "He could take whatever you gave him and put something together that kept us going. I think that's what makes the world go around, eating good."
Pesky said he thinks of the ice arena and Vaughn Street Ballpark when he thinks about Slabtown.
And, he misses his brother, who had been associated with the Red Sox for more than 60 years, since breaking into the big leagues in 1942 and topping 200 hits in his first three seasons — separated by a three-year stint in the U.S. Navy. He befriended and played with Ted Williams.
"Johnny was a very good human being, helping other people," said Pesky, who also served in the U.S. Navy. Johnny Pesky also played hockey, but "he chose the right path to be a baseball player."
But, "the way Vince tells it, when Johnny came back wearing his ensign whites, his father was very proud of him," Nelson said.
Pesky lived in his family's home for most of his life, until 2014 when he moved to Regency Park.
To read more about Vince Pesky, see the Tribune's 2015 feature on him by Kerry Eggers at www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/12-sports/270248-145323-happy-birthday-vince-pesky.
To read more about Johnny Pesky, see the Tribune's 2003 feature on him by Kerry Eggers at www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/12-sports/114021-diamond-life--johnny-pesky.
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