Poppy gets a high-five-Sign on San Diego

Centenarian has kind words and stories for his friends at the park

By John Wilkens-UT

6:57 a.m. July 9, 2009

When asked why he likes going to the Questhaven Park so often, Tony Cardarella laughed and said it’s because of the women he knows there.

SAN MARCOS — One of the ideas behind neighborhood parks is that people will come and mingle, get to know each other, form a community. Sometimes it actually happens that way.

It did at the park on Questhaven Road in San Elijo Hills. Almost every morning, mothers, grandmothers and nannies take children to the park, where the hive they buzz around is a 100-year-old man everybody calls Poppy. He greets them with high-fives and hugs. He hands out Tootsie Rolls. He tells stories about his days back in Brooklyn, when milk was delivered door to door in wagons pulled by horses.

“I’ve seen a few things,” he said. His name is Anthony Cardarella. He lives a block away with his daughter’s family. He said he comes to the San Marcos park every day because he likes the people and because life is too short not to be friendly.

“I’ve never had any enemies, not even in the Army,” Cardarella said. Well, the Germans did shoot at him during World War II. They hit him, too – a leg wound in 1944 earned him a trip to the hospital and a Purple Heart. But that was combat. Nothing personal. “He hasn’t met anybody he doesn’t like,” said Becky Nutter, a nanny who has been coming to the park for about 3½ years. “If somebody doesn’t say hi to him, he wonders what’s wrong.” READ MORE via Poppy gets a high-five.

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