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Hundred-year-old with wanderlust found in Orlando

His daughter thinks he may have taken a bus ride there. She plans to bring him home to Tampa.

Published January 5, 2006

TAMPA - Rosie Patterson was eating breakfast at her Auburndale home Wednesday morning when the 100-year-old man's face came across her television during the news.

"Oh, he looks familiar," she thought.

When his name - Emilio Xiques - appeared on the screen, it clicked.

"I knew we had a resident with that particular name," Patterson said.

Xiques lives in Tampa and had failed for two months to pick up his Social Security check. Police were treating it as a missing persons case.

Patterson said he has been at Parks Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Orlando for nearly two months. She works there as the director of nursing services.

Gladys Xiques Perez, Xiques' daughter, planned to drive to Orlando today to bring him back home. She said she still doesn't know how her father ended up there.

It's not uncommon for Xiques to take bus trips away from Tampa, his daughter said. He's even been known to frequent Orlando from time to time. She said she thinks he might have taken a bus this time or hitched a ride with a female friend.

"I'm just glad it turned out to be a safe ending and not a sad ending," she said.

Perez contacted Tampa police in late December, concerned when her father hadn't picked up his checks. She noticed that his mailbox, close to hers at the post office, began to overflow with mail.

Perez described her father as alert. He spent 20 years working in a cigar box factory, then painted houses for several years after that. But for much of his life he has made his way as a panhandler.

Xiques has refused to live in an assisted living facility, instead choosing to stay on his own in motels.

Perez said she plans to talk to him on their drive back to Tampa today and try and convince him that it's time he lived someplace more stable, though, she said, she doubts he'll listen.

Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin said that when Xiques arrived in Orlando, he had "some kind of injuries" that caused him to go to an area hospital. When the hospital released him, doctors sent him to Patterson's health care facility.

She would not say what procedures administrators there went through to try and find out whether Xiques had any relatives in the area.

Close to 90 percent of nursing home patients are referred to those facilities by a hospital, said Ed Towey, spokesman for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state. Generally, he said, nursing homes would contact local law enforcement to try and identify a patient and locate relatives.

Patterson said there were a few times that Xiques, who they called "Mr. X," said he wanted to go to Tampa. She said he provided a telephone number for a relative, but it didn't work.

"I have told him before, "If you need me, call me. Don't disappear. Don't take off with anybody,' " Perez said.

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this story.

[Last modified January 5, 2006, 01:17:09]

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