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April 1, 2000

Marathon Man Forever

By Sanford Wexler

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Meet Michael J. Pascuma, a legendary 92-year-old trader who has the energy and spirit of a 25-year-old go-getter. Pascuma is an independent floor broker at the American Stock Exchange.

Over the past 75 years, Pascuma has dashed across the trading floor at the American Stock Exchange like a pro half his age. And he has seen it all: the ups and the downs of the market in the past century. The '29 Crash, the post-war boom, the go-go '60s, the '87 crash, the continuing bull market, the longest running in history.

Mention the name Michael Pascuma' to any of the 800-some floor brokers at the Amex and they will likely say, "he's here every day, year in and year out. Great guy."

Diminutive Veteran

Pascuma, a dapper 5 foot 5 inch veteran, is in perfect shape for a broker, in an industry where stress has sometimes felled the best. This man, possibly the oldest floor broker in the U.S., could easily pass for a 65-year-old. What's happening?

"Well I walk about 13 miles a day," Pascuma said. "That's right here on the Amex trading floor."

Pascuma raised his arms over his head and touched his toes over a dozen times for this reporter. Yes, Pascuma is a fit bird.

The son of Italian immigrants, he was born and raised in Queens, New York. "My father was a cobbler," he said. "He had a little shoe repair shop."

Pascuma still resides in the same neighborhood, Richmond Hill, where he grew up with his four brothers and four sisters. Pascuma lives with his wife, Ada, 88, and has one son and three grandchildren. "I've been married for 63 years and the most important thing is that it's to the same woman," he quipped.

In 1925, Pascuma started his Wall Street career as a 16-year-old runner for a small brokerage firm. He delivered and picked up order slips to and from the American and New York Stock Exchanges. Within a few months Pascuma moved to another firm, where he was charged with gathering stock quotations over the telephone.

Scared to Death

One day he was asked to work as a substitute for a clerk, who worked at the Amex, which was known at the time as the Curb Market. "I was at first scared to death," Pascuma recalled. Yet when he set eyes on the hurly-burly trading floor he felt immediately attracted to the lifestyle.

Pascuma asked around for a clerk's job on the floor and landed a spot with the firm of Heller & Levinson. "I holler pretty loud," he proudly said. "At that time there were no machines like we have today. To beat the other guy, you had to scream all over the place to reach the specialist."

When one of the partners of the firm died in 1936, Pascuma took his place and became a member of the American Stock Exchange.

World War II