Naples ‘Bocce king’ inspires seniors to get active

A surprise ceremony today honored one Naples man for his impact in the community.

Joe Rovida found his passion in his seventies when he visited his daughter in France.

“They had a game there called “pétanque” which is the french version of Bocce…that’s how I got hooked on the game I love,” Rovida said.

Now, in his nineties, he’s inspiring people to find theirs.

After returning to Southwest Florida and moving into the Vi at Bentley Village community in Naples, Rovida wanted to create more opportunities for fellow seniors to get active and get into the game, so he helped design Bocce courts added to the retirement community in 2002.
“I sent out a notice that we were gonna have Bocce at Bentley Village and I thought eight or 10 people would show up …53 people showed up,” Rovida said.
Over the past 17 years, the 92-year-old has helped hundreds learn the lawn game. For residents like Luan Callery, it’s their first time getting on to the court.
“He’s wonderful and he feels as though everyone can play,” Callery said. “When we go to play with other teams, he’ll take anyone that wants to go, which gives you confidence.”

“I love it because of the camaraderie it creates,” he said. “It’s just rewarding to me to see people having a good time.”

Rovida and his team spends 50 weeks of the year playing Bocce against 30 other Florida teams.

After 17 years of encouraging seniors to try tossing a ball, today they gathered to honor their “Bocce king.”

The 92-year-old said he plans to play Bocce as long as he can, and the greatest reward is the friends he makes along the way.

“I’ve made a million friends not only playing Bocce here but with other communities and that in itself is very rewarding to see people enjoying the game and having fun,” he said.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
Writer:Briana Harvath
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