WEST JORDAN — At 103 years old, Claudio Dos Santos defies stereotypes. With a smartphone in his suit jacket and a computer at home, the centenarian keeps up with the latest news, here and in his native Brazil.
"The progress is difficult to follow but I think I made it," Dos Santos said with a grin.
"He's got a computer — he's on that computer every day," according to his son, Welster Dos Santos. "He's always sending me stuff."
On Thursday, Dos Santos celebrated his 103rd birthday. It also happened to be another special day for him and 175 other Utahns who have reached or surpassed the age of 100 years in 2018.
"The most exclusive club in Utah — the centenarians," Gov. Gary Herbert said at the 32nd Centenarian Celebration, an event recognizing Utah's 100-year-old residents. "Everybody, I think, generally aspires to get into the club and only a few make it."
Over the course of their lives, besides countless incredible, personal events, many of the 100-somethings were witnesses to two world wars, the introduction of telephones, televisions, radios, automobiles, space travel and the internet.
Claudio Dos Santos is no exception, his son said, a personal and professional world traveler with multiple patents under his name, the centenarian has enough memories to fill a book.
"He's also the first Brazilian to ever sing in the tabernacle choir," Welster Dos Santos said.
"I know there's 176 members in the club — and that's growing," Herbert said. "People are living longer, with better lives thanks to the advancement of science, technology and medicine."
By 2050, the state government anticipates about 1,400 centenarians in Utah — about the size of the population of Duchesne, Coalville or Kamas.
Herbert briefly met will all the present club members Thursday, recognizing those he's seen in years past and welcoming the new centenarians to the crew.
"You inspire us all," Herbert said during one of these short conversations.
"Well, I hope so!" Harriet Matic replied. At 101 years old, her wit is as sharp as ever.
Matic and Florence Johnson, 100, are a bit of a marvel at Thursday's dinner — the two are sisters.
"She's still the boss," Johnson said. One hundred years have passed, and yet the older sibling maintains her title.
"Our mother passed away when we were small, I was 4," Matic said. "And we stuck together. If she had problems, I'd take care of her problems with whoever's naughty to her. You do it to my sister, I'll take care of it."
The two sisters are Utah natives, Matic, born in Sandy, and Florence, in Salt Lake City. After overcoming obstacles in their younger lives, losing their mother and facing the Great Depression, the two have lived lives worthy of lasting a century.
Matic managed three beauty salons with 45 employees. Johnson worked at an arms plant making bullets during wartime and also spent time as a bookkeeper for Gordon Family Furniture in Tooele.
"I'm so happy that I'm still healthy and 101 and I'm so happy that she's still 100 and still doing good," Matic said. "We can still see each other and laugh about our youth."
Of Utah's successes today, the governor said that the state has their centenarians like Matic and Johnson to thank.
"You've seen also Utah, our state, become one of the leaders of this nation," Herbert said. "We are now the most strong, diverse economy in America today, and in large part because of the work of our centenarians."
In 1918, the population of the Beehive State just exceeded 430,000 — 100 years later, it has exploded to an estimated 3.16 million.
"I've always been interested in history," said Tanner Powell, an 18-year-old that volunteered at Thursday's lunch. "Last school year, there was a class offered about World War II, and that just sparked my interest in meeting senior citizens."Comment on this story
While Powell has no connection to any of the centenarians, that spark had brought him to speak with some of them, taking in the combined wisdom that was present.
"Of all the people here, there's 6,000 years between them — at least," Powell said. "You can learn so much, just from talking to these people and I think that's something everyone should do."
There was no talk of regrets Thursday. After 100 years, Utah's centenarians only have lives well-lived to impress upon others.
“I lived my life my way and advise you to do the same," Claudio Dos Santos said. "Be yourself positively in all things.”