"Why, sure," Ruby answered, as if that goes without saying. "We take care of each other to this day. At night, I keep an eye open. 'Is he going to fall?' "

Fond memories

On this weekday morning at Vantage House, the conversation inevitably returned to a retro mode — snippets peppered with news of childhood, adolescence and war.

"I'm from Perry, Arkansas," John Hill said. "There were 600 people in town. Eight or 10 kids that graduated in my class. Life was great. My daddy was a lawyer. He drove a horse and buggy to his office every morning. There were no automobiles."


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"We were farmers," Ruby followed. "Mostly it was corn. Later, we got into tobacco. I graduated in 1930. There were three of us in our graduating class. I was in the debating group. One time, we rode horseback, 14 miles in the wintertime to debate. Can you imagine that?"

At one point during the morning, the couple was visited by Allyson Stanton, a social worker consultant at Vantage House. She took one look at the Hills and her face lit up.

Stanton was there to evaluate the couple's cognitive skills.

First, she ticked off three names — sock, blue and bed — and asked Ruby to repeat them.

"Sock, blue and bed," Ruby echoed.

"Excellent!" Stanton said.

"Ruby, what year is it right now?"

"2012," came the answer in a composed and confident manner.

"And the month?"

"June," came the response.

"And the day of the week?"

"Uh, I guess it's Friday."

"Wednesday," John corrected her.

All in all, a stellar performance.

"We love John and Ruby," Stanton said. "They're like family to the staff and residents. We moved them over from an independent living apartment to needing more care, and they adjusted beautifully. They are together. They get ill together. They're a complete pair."

As the morning sun streamed into their bedroom, Ruby observed that she has always taken a straight-ahead view of life. "I can't recall being afraid of anything or anybody or any decision I have had to make," she said proudly. "Things were always clear to me. I always had a positive life, and I didn't look back."

"We've had a pretty darn good life," John said, adding that after they retired at age 60, they set sail on a total of 35 cruises around the world.

"We went out to see what was out there," he said, his voice deep and reassuring, "and there is a helluva lot out there. It's a helluva big world."