71-year-old ‘leaper’ to celebrate 18th birthday

PASO ROBLES —Although 71 years of age, technically, Ray Pesenti has only had seventeen birthdays and will turn both 18 and 72 this year, depending on how it’s counted. Born on a leap day, Feb. 29, Raymond’s actual birthday only appears every four years. This year, Raymond will celebrate his “18th birthday” with his two grandchildren; Sophie and Bryson who are also turning 18 this year. Sophie celebrates her birthday in April and Bryson in February.

“We had a lovely sweet sixteen party for him,” Ray’s wife, Pam said, adding that she has not decided what to do for the upcoming celebration.

The United States, along with most of the rest of the world, operates under the Gregorian Calendar. The 365-day calendar has 11 months with either 30 or 31 days, except for February which has 28. The reason there is a leap year is all because of timing. It takes the Earth 365 and one-quarter days to travel around the sun, so an extra day is added every four years to keep the calendar balanced that, and nobody really likes fractions. 

Called “leapers,” “leapings,” or “leap year babies,” these unique people can choose which day to celebrate their birthdays. Some decide to celebrate on the last day of February or the first day of March and some, such as Raymond, celebrates it on both days. It is no surprise that the DMV did not make an exception for Ray, his California state driver’s license expires on his birthday of this year.

Born in San Luis Obispo, Ray has spent his whole life on the Central Coast. Ray and his wife settled in Paso Robles and proudly call themselves Bearcats. The two met in high school and intend to celebrate their 52 wedding anniversary in August.

Now retired, Ray spent 28 years working in the oilfields of San Ardo. He started as a roustabout, a casual laborer on an oil rig, where he eventually became an electrician. After Chevron purchased Texaco, Ray worked as a stationary engineer for the state until he retired.

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Ray Presenti on his restored 1946 Doodlebug at the Doodlebug Reunion in Webster City, Iowa.

Ray likes to work with his hands and has picked up the hobby of restoring engines, mostly “one-lung” diesel engines, and is a member of the Paso Robles Engine Club. Apart from his grandchildren, Ray’s pride and joy is his fully restored 1922 Studebaker. 

“I used to play on it when I was a kid,” Raymond said.

A friend of the family owned the car when Ray was just a boy. When the previous owner passed away, he left instructions for Ray to get the car. 

Ray spent more than three years restoring the automobile. He reupholstered the seats in leather and made a new top for the car. The classic car has made several appearances on the Central Coast. Ray chauffeured his granddaughter to her father-daughter dance. When his father, Ray, was chosen as the 2009 Pioneer Day Marshall, he traveled the parade in the old Studebaker.

Ray drove his father, who is also named Ray, in the Pioneer Day Parade, when he was the 2009 Pioneer Day Marshall.

Taking advantage of being retired, Ray and Pam have explored the countryside in their fifth-wheel trailer. 

“We love to get in that fifth-wheel and go,” Pam said.

They drove the trailer up through British Columbia to stay at a friend’s cabin in Alaska. They also drove to Webster City, Iowa, home of the Doodle Bug Scooter. True to his nature, Ray restored a childhood scooter, and the couple drove to Iowa to join the Doodle Bug Scooter Reunion.