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Sep 19, 2017 6:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Centenarian Survives Hit-And-Run Accident In Hampton Bays

James Quaresima, 102, recounts the hit and run that put him in Southampton Hospital.  DANA SHAW
Sep 19, 2017 6:36 PM

It’s almost cinematic.

A 102-year-old man is puttering down Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays on his four-wheel scooter, the same path he’s taken for the past six years, to get an afternoon haircut.

Out of nowhere, a vehicle comes careening down Fanning Avenue, slams into his scooter at the intersection, and jettisons the centenarian onto the asphalt. The unidentified driver takes off without stopping.

The victim suffers internal injuries, including a swollen spleen, two fractured ribs and a head contusion that required two staples to close. But not a single broken bone.

Nearly everyone—including the real-life victim in this instance, James “Chippy” Quaresima of Hampton Bays—agrees that the outcome could have been far worse.

“Having reached my point in life and age, I think I have a little angel on my shoulder,” Mr. Quaresima said on Tuesday from his bed at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, his temporary home since the Friday afternoon accident. “Things that happen to me are almost incredible.”

Authorities say they are still investigating the hit-and-run accident, which occurred around 3:45 p.m. on Friday, near the home of Beverly Wessler, a friend of Mr. Quaresima’s family who just happened to be home at the time, though she did not witness the accident. She immediately contacted Mr. Quaresima’s son, Peter, who called an ambulance that transported his father to the hospital.

Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph said this week that there were no eyewitnesses and that investigators are asking anyone who might have witnessed the accident to contact them.

“I think they would be prosecuted for a felony when they’re found,” said Peter Quaresima, who also lives in Hampton Bays. “They could have killed my dad—it could have been vehicular manslaughter. I hope they’re caught and charged for their crimes.”

Sitting in his hospital room on Tuesday, bedecked in a robe and plugged into IVs and monitors, the elder Mr. Quaresima shone with humor and energy, explaining that the potentially traumatizing accident he had only recently survived—his scooter was not nearly as fortunate—was just another event on the long and twisting road of his life.

Mr. Quaresima was born on May 24, 1915, during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. He earned his nickname as a young boy, with his son explaining that his father’s friends decided to call him “Chippy” after observing that he enjoyed playing near a church where sparrows—called “chippies”—often fluttered in and out of the bushes.

Early in his life, James Quaresima owned a neon glass sign business, according to his daughter-in-law, Toni Giammarusco-Quaresima, who also lives in Hampton Bays. He and his brothers then bought the Triboro Printing Corporation, a highway sign business in Astoria, and both of Mr. Quaresima’s sons, Peter and Jim, worked for him there.

Mr. Quaresima and his late wife, Mary Peluso, a surgical nurse, were married for 56 years until her death in 1996. “She really made dad the way he is—she kept him in line,” said Peter Quaresima. “I have no doubt that she’s up there, keeping an eye on him.”

In spite of his age, Mr. Quaresima continues to live on his own, often taking his scooter—which, ironically, had sported a neon red sign that was gifted to him by the Southampton Town Police Department to protect him on his travels—to go food shopping and visit family.

“It’s paining me to have to sit here,” Mr. Quaresima said on Tuesday. “I have work to do at home. Up until the point when I was hit, I’d get up at 7 o’clock in the morning and stay up until 9 o’clock at night. I ride my scooter, I do my own shopping for food, I cook my own meals, I live alone.”

He admitted that he was thinking of giving up his ride before the thoughtless driver slammed into him, totaling his scooter.

“It was not meant this way that man should live forever,” Mr. Quaresima said. “So, I look forward. A month ago, I decided that I have to stop this scooter business. I need a driver.”

Mr. Quaresima will start relying on a personal driver once he is released from the hospital, possibly before the weekend.

“I have a beautiful setup right now,” he explained. “I get up at seven in the morning and [the driver] would come in at 10. Those three hours give me the latitude to do whatever I want.”

While he enjoys his alone time, Mr. Quaresima is no stranger to the spotlight—and that held true even before last week’s accident. He explained that, over the years, he’s been featured on several nationally aired shows, including an appearance on the “Today Show” for his 101st birthday last spring.

“I became almost a national figure. I was on the morning shows … I was on Glenn Beck’s TV program twice!” Mr. Quaresima said. “They invited me, they sent me the tickets for my flight, everything.

“If anybody is going to know about this, I want him to know it,” he continued, referring to Mr. Beck, who now hosts “The Glenn Beck Program” on his conservative website, TheBlaze.com. “He’s gonna call me again and invite me back down to Dallas—and I want to go!”

All of this enthusiasm and rigor for life has led Mr. Quaresima to make a startlingly speedy recovery as he headed to rehabilitation on Tuesday afternoon.

“If you had told me, when I saw him lying on the road, bloody head to toe, that he would be in rehab on Tuesday, I would have said you’re crazy,” Peter Quaresima said. “But he’s just a freak of nature. He’s a real piece of work.”

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Amazing story, amazing spirit. He's being looked after, for sure!
By June Bug (2193), SOUTHAMPTON on Sep 20, 17 12:29 PM
Fanning Avenue is like a drag strip. If the PD don't enforce the speed limit there will be more unfortunate incidents like this one. Thank God he survived.
By HB90 (153), southampton on Sep 20, 17 10:26 PM
Um incase the person who is writing does not know that a fracture is the same as a brake of a bone... So he did have broken bones!!!! Just can not put a cast put on it.
By J. Totta (100), Sag Harbor on Sep 21, 17 9:47 AM
I am his daughter-in-law, yes he had a fractured rib but in the scheme of things, not to have any other major breaks and for that matter survive is amazing.
By ToniQ (8), Hampton Bays on Sep 21, 17 11:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
Please wish him well Toni. His Hampton Hill neighbors are concerned and wishing him a speedy recovery.
By LindaLongFabiano (1), Hampton Bays on Sep 21, 17 7:32 PM
Thanks Linda. He is doing well, still at WH Care Center but upbeat and getting many visitors which he loves.
By ToniQ (8), Hampton Bays on Oct 18, 17 9:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By scottso (16), southampton on Sep 21, 17 6:48 PM
Glad Mr Quaresima is ok. I would bet driver was distracted by a cell phone maybe?!? I hope for a speedy recovery. And I hope the driver is apprehended.

The author should have proofed this article better and needs to study medical terminology: 1) A fracture is a break and 2) a contusion does not break the skin but a laceration does.
By scottso (16), southampton on Sep 21, 17 6:48 PM