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Gault Gives Fairfielders an Early Christmas Gift

One hundred twelve years. In the age of planned obsolescence , it almost defies logic that a piece of machinery could last 112 years. Yet that's how long Pepe and Anita Soto-Ortiz's furnace has worked in their Fairfield home. That is, until Thursday.

Pepe and Anita won Gault Energy's 2010 Oldest Boiler contest . The Westport-based company brought the couple a new Peerless Oil model to replace the ancient version.

"You could not build it any more solid than that," Pepe says of his old model. Built in 1898, the boiler initially burned coal and wood. It's since been converted to oil and has been running in their Meadowbrook Lane home since it was built in 1914.

What made the early Christmas gift more special is the Soto-Ortiz's need. Anita continues to do "what she loves," working as a nurse at Willows Pediatric Group. But Pepe specialized in the international finance industry since he came to the U.S. from Spain 42 years ago. In February 2009, he became a casualty of the falling economy, losing his job at Xerox.

Though he sends out 630 resumes every month, Pepe has had no luck finding employment. While the new furnace was being installed, Pepe sat in his kitchen. He tapped a pair of newspapers sitting on his table.

"This is my job now," Pepe says. Though he has four decades of experience and speaks four languages, he understands perfectly why he cannot find work. One reason is the economic climate. Because of the nature of his business, he will likely need to wait until the whole world rebounds.

But also, like he did with his boiler, companies are more likely to go after the newer models. Even Pepe admits he probably wouldn't go after the 64-year-old when younger hires are cheaper in salaries and benefits.

Pepe sticks to the newspaper and his job search. Until he finds a paying gig, he will continue to focus on nonprofit consulting work. Pepe says the work helps him not only keep his sanity but also his perspective.

"There are always people that are worse off than me," he says. "It's something that I have that occupies me, instead of going bananas sitting in my house."

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