Photo By: Above Photo By Eren Gknar/Special to the Town Crier right Photo courtesy of the Biocinis
Scientists at the Stanford Center on Longevity, whose research explores how people can live longer and fuller lives, might find Winnie and George Biocini a good case study.
The Los Altos couple seem to have found the secret to the fountain of youth. Winnie, 90, and George, 96, live busy, happy lives filled with friends, family and socializing, not isolation.
The hosts with the most
In fact, the Biocinis are so partial to parties that they remodeled their Sevilla Drive ranch house, expanding their dining room to accommodate nearly 40 guests. They added a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a warming oven as well as a second oven and dishwasher. Winnie maintains 36 settings of china to make her themed parties special.
The Biocinis celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2011. They marked their 71st last June with an anniversary party for 225 of their closest friends at the Menlo Circus Club.
What inspires their longevity and capacity for friendship?
Winnie said they’re easy to be around because they stay positive.
“I’ve never lost a friend, because I zip my lips and I don’t criticize,” she said. “We never get involved. Never.”
George and Winnie’s daughter Peggy added, “Wherever they go, they make friends – at Costco, everywhere – all day long.”
Laughing heartily, proving she doesn’t take herself too seriously, Winnie said, shrugging her shoulders, “People love me.”
She doesn’t have a clue why they do, but “they fall in love with us.” Maybe it’s because she and George are so friendly, she speculated. Their amiability is infectious.
“I call them the teenagers,” said Peggy, who moved in last summer to help her parents age in place.
Oldest daughter Linda Schneller lives in Los Altos with husband Chad, and youngest Georgia Watson lives in Mountain View with husband Chris. The Biocinis have five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
The early days
The Biocinis have similar Croatian backgrounds. Born and raised in San Francisco, their families traveled in the same social circle.
In typical playful style, Winnie holds up a picture of a hundred men and women, each holding a baby, taken at a Croatian association picnic circa the early 1920s. Arrows marked “George” and “Winnie” point, respectively, to a young boy and a baby girl.
“George likes to say that he fell in love with me when he first saw me here – and he loved my legs,” Winnie chuckled.
With her strict Croatian upbringing, Winnie’s mother forbade her to date as a teenager. Winnie thought mom might make an exception for a Croatian boy, even though he was older. Slyly, she asked George to the senior ball at the San Francisco Girls’ High School.
George, six years older and sporting a mustache, won her heart, despite the fact that “my girlfriends all thought he was too old,” Winnie said.
She graduated from high school with honors and continued her studies at San Francisco State. In 1939, the raven-haired stunner entered the Miss San Francisco beauty contest and finished a runner-up.
Flipping through a scrapbook a friend gave them for their anniversary, Winnie stopped at a picture of the couple as they embarked on their honeymoon.
“I wanted to go to Hawaii and he took me to Catalina,” she said. “He said it was the same thing – and I didn’t know the difference.”
At first they lived in San Francisco, where George’s family operated a commercial laundry business. They eventually moved to Menlo Park.
Winnie wanted her daughters to obtain the four-year college degree she was never able to complete, so she went to work for a real estate company, Crosby Diegelman.
“Every day, the 14 men – I would come in delighted and say, ‘Good morning,’ and they would lower their heads and not say anything,” she recalled. “So I said to myself, ‘Winnie, don’t get mad – just go study for your broker’s license.’”
She subsequently opened her own office at Santa Cruz Avenue and El Camino Real and put her girls through college.
Her hospitality was evident in those days, too. A favorite sales tactic was to cook a turkey for people who bought a house from her.
“The movers would have a meal, and the owners would, too, and, my, they were so appreciative,” she said.
The Biocinis had expected to live out their retirement at Menlo Commons, where they owned a condominium, but when they visited 25 years ago, George said, “We can’t live here – there are old ladies in the pool.”
They decided to buy the house in Los Altos, instead.
Not long ago, they returned to Menlo Commons to take care of some business. A beautiful, slim woman walked by.
“George said, ‘Why didn’t we live here?” said Winnie, enjoying the joke on her husband.
The secret to their longevity
These days, the Biocinis stay active socializing, and Winnie still serves on the Sequoia Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. Winnie exercises on a special machine that her son-in-law, Chris Watson, a Mountain View chiropractor, lets her use.
“Other than that, I’m not doing that much exercising,” she said. “I read AARP, and I don’t want to fall.”
As far as diet, Winnie makes soup every day for her beloved husband, using turkey or other bones, and adding beans, lentils, whatever she has around the house.
“I have no illnesses, nothing hurts,” she said proudly.
What’s the secret to their long marriage?
“(George says), ‘Yes, darling. Yes, dear,’” Winnie said.
“Believe me, that’s what he says – he’s the smartest man,” Peggy chimed in for emphasis.