At 100, a man of habit is missing

When he broke from his usual routine, his children became worried about his health and well-being.

Published January 4, 2006

TAMPA - Emilio Xiques is 100 years old. He has no teeth and he lost his left pinkie working in a cigar box factory. He walks without a cane, loves the dog track and last September, at 99, became the oldest inmate ever at the Orient Road Jail, thanks to a trespassing charge.

Now, Xiques - all 5-foot-1 and 110 pounds of him - is missing.

"I got bad vibes like something ain't right," said Gladys Xiques Perez, 51, Xiques' daughter.

Perez turned to Tampa police on Dec. 27 after her normally alert father failed for two months to pick up his Social Security check, benefits he receives from working in that factory years ago.

His post office box, the one he keeps right next to his daughter's, was jammed with mail.

"The reason it took her so long to come to us is that he's together," said Michael Wirth, Tampa police investigator.

Wirth described Xiques as a strong-willed man who chooses to live from one hotel to another. He doesn't drink.

He worked 20 years in a cigar box factory and several years after that painting houses, Perez said. He turned to panhandling when he was supporting a family of nine children, his daughter said, and always maintained it was fine as long as he didn't steal.

Last year, Xiques resisted being placed in Casa Marti, an assisted living facility in Tampa, preferring instead to rent rooms by the night at places such as the Swann Motel on N Nebraska Avenue, Wirth said.

Perez said she last saw her father in early November, when she visited him at the Swann Motel. He was uncharacteristically unshaven and his clothing was disheveled.

"He just said, "I don't feel good no more,' " Perez remembered on Tuesday.

She and her son gave him a shave and a haircut, bought him some new black shoes and a pair of black pants. Another guest at the Swann reported during that visit that he'd seen her father fall in the street. Now Perez worries maybe senility was starting to set in.

Perez said her brother last saw their father boarding a bus in mid November. The small-statured, gray-haired man has a large nose and often wears a short-brimmed hat over his balding head, Wirth said.

Though perhaps hard-headed, Xiques has lived life in a pattern, picking up his Social Security check regularly.

"If he doesn't have Social Security coming in," Wirth said, "he's got to be eating somewhere."

Wirth has checked with the Medical Examiner's office, homeless shelters and food banks. Xiques hasn't been seen at the dog track.

"Everyone in Tampa knows him," Perez said. "I hope that someone is taking care of him."

Anyone with information about Xiques is asked to call Wirth at (813) 276-3516.

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.