RARITAN, NJ - Raritan’s Angelo “Biz” Godino celebrated his 100th birthday in July, surrounded by relatives and an extended family of loyal friends, many of whom traveled great distances for the occasion.
Godino is one of five children of the late Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Godino, and a lifelong resident of Raritan.
Godino is known to all as “Biz.” His sister Amelia, 94, of Kentucky, explained the nickname in a birthday note, saying that their mother endearingly called him mosquito when he was very small. “Mosquito” evolved into the buzzing sound that they make, and the childhood nickname “Biz” stuck with him.
Godino and his two brothers, Anthony and Louis, all served in the U.S. Army Infantry in World War II. He was inducted on April 24, 1941, and served overseas in Italy and France.
His brothers and one sister, Nancy, have since passed away.
Godino and his late wife Ruth, better known by the nickname “Shorty,” raised three children in Raritan – son, Joseph Godino, of Raritan, and daughters Lisa Godino, of Oxford, and Lori Godino Kulik, of Bridgewater. Now, they have five grandchildren Krystal, Amanda, Stephanie, Richard and Natalie, and four great-grandchildren.
Biz and Shorty, as they were known, had been married for 68 years when she passed away at the age of 90 in 2017.
In his favorite living room chair, overlooking the picture window with his little dog Louie sitting at his feet, Godino’s reflections about turning 100 hint at an easygoing outlook on life.
“I just took things for granted, that’s all I did,” he said. “I figured, whatever’s coming my way I either accept it or reject it.”
Godino and Kulik reminisced about his younger years when he and his friend, Raritan’s own hero John Basilone, would make homemade wine in wooden barrels at Godino’s mother’s home next door. Before their military service, Godino and Basilone worked together as golf caddies, earning 75 cents plus a25-cent tip per round.
Godino was fond of sharing a humorous anecdote of going on strike with Basilone for better caddying wages, earning them a pay increase of 90 cents per round, with a tip of 10 cents.
After serving in the Army, Godino went on to be a fireman in Belle Mead. Kulik remembers her dad as being a caring provider for his family.
“He didn’t really have but an eighth grade education, but he did very well financially for his family,” she said. “He was able to give so many things to me and my two siblings. He always took care of us, he did laundry and he cooked for us and he made homemade sauce.”
Godino sat surrounded by dozens of birthday cards from loved ones. Many were from friends he made over the last 30 years when he worked as sole proprietor of The Hutch, a family-friendly tavern on the banks of the Delaware River in Harmony.
Godino single-handedly ran the business, bartending, cooking and maintaining the building and grounds until the age of 98. The small establishment was frequented by a close-knit community of regular patrons who grew very fond of Biz over the years.
Bobby Joe, formerly of Harmony, traveled from Florida for Godino’s 100th birthday party. Godino and Joe, also a veteran, spent many afternoons sharing stories about their time in the service.
Joe said he regards Godino as a father figure.
“To me, he’s the ideal American, he really truly is,” Joe said. “A very good honest American man with an Italian background, that’s all. He’s an honest man.”
Friend Sue Ogas traveled to Raritan from North Carolina for the birthday celebration.
“I truly care about this man, and am honored and blessed to know him and enjoy this milestone birthday of his,” she said.
She and her daughters, now adults, formed a close friendship with Godino as regular patrons of The Hutch. Her daughters think of Godino as a grandfather.
Party guests Jim Geist and Mickey Beers were also regulars at The Hutch.
“He’s a really good guy,” Geist said. “He didn’t care about the money, he didn’t care who you were, everybody was welcome.”
Beers had a regular seat at The Hutch and enjoyed watching “Jeopardy” with Godino, whom he has known for 40 years.
Ogas attributes the ongoing friendships to the “loyalty and camaraderie of the river. The friendships that formed really are lasting friendships,” she said.
When asked how old he feels, Godino replied frankly, “Exactly what I am, 100.”
“I feel good,” he added with a smile. "I’d like to go another hundred.”