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'Magnificent Maurice,' 68, a Model Senior Strongman


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, N.J. — A 68-year-old man who performs feats of strength as part of his personal fitness crusade has added another one to his resume: lifting a refrigerator with three women on it.

Maurice Catarcio also ripped decks of playing cards in half, tore a license plate and bent a steel bar into a U-shape during an unpaid exhibition in a parking lot.

Catarcio has survived prostate cancer and a heart attack to become a kind of Hercules for the older set. He calls himself "The Magnificent Maurice."

"It shows people with the same adversities I've faced that if they're honest, they can do it," Catarcio says, meaning improve their health, not lift a refrigerator.

Catarcio is a longtime state GOP committeeman whose 9-to-5 job is as chairman of the Cape May County Bridge Commission.

He has been a bodybuilder and weightlifter since age 11. But since undergoing surgery for prostate cancer in 1991, the 5-foot-11-inch, 210-pound muscleman with the 51-inch chest and 35-inch waist has turned his fitness obsession into a spectator sport:

* He pulled a 34,000-pound bus 15 feet, then pushed it back 60 feet.

* While doing the backstroke, he pulled an 80-foot sightseeing boat by a harness strung around his neck.

* He held two motorcycles in place as they accelerated to nearly 40 mph in different directions.

* Last year, he tore in half 17 decks of new playing cards in 59 seconds.

His wife said she worries that Catarcio will get hurt. "Some days I do [try to discourage him]. Other days, I stay quiet," said Roxanne Catarcio, 40, the mother of 9-year-old Maurice Catarcio Jr.

Catarcio also has a 9-year-old grandson from his first marriage.

He stood atop a forklift under which the refrigerator was positioned and directed niece Roxanne Rigazio, 20, and friends Iris Perez, 19, and Brandy Laun, 23, into place.

Perez climbed inside the refrigerator; Rigazio and Laun sat on a wooden pallet that was placed over it. Total weight: 535 pounds.

Using a hand harness attached to the refrigerator, he lifted it with one hand, raising it about two inches off the ground for two seconds. Then, to oblige a tabloid photographer, he lifted it again.

Then he came down for the other tricks, bloodying his hands while ripping the playing cards. "You have to be able to withstand pain," he said, grimacing.

Catarcio doesn't claim to be the world's strongest man. But he does say, "I'm probably the strongest senior citizen in the world. And I know I'm the strongest politician in the world."

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