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    Manuel White, 100; US worker for 50 years, kept up on Facebook

    Mr. White celebrated his 100th birthday with his great-grandson Wyatt Whitman last May.
    Mr. White celebrated his 100th birthday with his great-grandson Wyatt Whitman last May.

    At 100, Manuel White was probably one of the oldest faces on Facebook, even though he often referred to the social media website as “a big waste of time.”

    “I don’t see the point of Facebook,” he used to say during the site’s earlier years.

    But he signed right up, his family said, when he saw how Facebook could help him stay touch with his grandchildren, and he delighted in learning about their lives through their status updates and photos.


    Mr. White, who formerly was a personnel director with the US Civil Service Commission and worked for the federal government for nearly 50 years, died April 16 in the Tippett Home hospice in Needham of complications from a broken hip and a blood infection.

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    He was 100 and had lived in Chestnut Hill.

    A background in electrical engineering might have fueled his passion for gadgetry, his family said. He was just as intrigued by the inner circuitry of new devices as he was in what they could accomplish.

    When his granddaughters gave him a new computer on a recent birthday, he took a course to find out why and how it was able to function.

    Mr. White was in his late 90s when the first iPad appeared on the market. He quickly mastered it and his iPad became a constant companion that he used to keep apprised of the latest news around the world.


    “It kept him really young,” said his daughter Barbara Arnold of Chestnut Hill.

    Still, he was selective about which social media he used and he never bothered with Twitter or Instagram.

    Mr. White graduated from Dorchester High School in the late 1920s and went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1933 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

    He occasionally worked at his father’s grocery store, where he added in his head what each customer owed before he ­issued handwritten receipts. Like many in his generation, he often rued that electronic calculators had turned mental calculations into a lost art.

    Not long after graduating from MIT, he landed a job as a placement specialist with the US Civil Service Commission, working in Post Office Square.


    In the years of the Great Depression, “there weren’t any other jobs,” said his granddaughter Melissa Arnold of Watertown.

    He enjoyed the job, which involved helping prepare exams issued to those who apply for civil service jobs. But he did not talk much about his work, his family said, and he retired in the early 1980s at age 70.

    Mr. White married Gertrude Solar in 1940. She died in 2000.

    “He was a very quiet, modest, unassuming guy who was on top of everything,” said his nephew David White of Brockton. “He was probably smarter than anyone else in the crowd, but he wasn’t one to show it off or anything.”

    His grandchildren often called him with questions when they struggled with math or science homework problems. With his own children, “You had to get an A,” his daughter said. “If you got an A-, he wanted to know why.”

    Mr. White applied the same high standards to the sports teams he followed. His granddaughter said she once discussed with him a Red Sox game that came close to being a no-hitter.

    “Close enough doesn’t count,” she recalled him saying.

    Mr. White seemed to be able to fix or diagnose any kind of electrical and mechanical problem around anyone’s house, his daughter said. He also kept busy by learning how to cook, becoming involved with his condo association, taking care of his grandchildren, and helping various charitable organizations.

    “He would come over and see the kids,” his daughter said, “after a bit, he’d say, ‘I have to go. I have a lot of things to do.’ ”

    Family members said that after the Boston Marathon bombings last week, they missed his counsel and his ability to place into context the enormity of significant events.

    “When the tragedy happened, he would have been the first person we called,” his daughter said. “He would have been the one to have followed the whole story.”

    In addition to his daughter, granddaughter, and nephew, Mr. White leaves another daughter, Adele Miller of South Easton; four other grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

    A service has been held, and burial was in Pride of Lynn Cemetery in Lynn.

    People often asked Mr. White how he accounted for his longevity.

    He usually responded that if he knew the secret, he would be a millionaire.

    His nephew said that if Mr. White was pressed further with questions about what he did to stay healthy and sharp, “he said, ‘You know, maybe it’s something I didn’t do.’ ”

    Emma Stickgold can be reached at