Sunday, July 16, 2000

At 104, she's still kicking

Woman who saw dawn of 20th century celebrating birthday

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mary Hill's recipe for eternal youth is simple.

(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        Just eat a lot of squirrels, raccoons, deer and rabbit. And don't forget the chicken feet.

        “She'll eat anything that don't eat her first,” said Marva Mathis, 58, of her grandmother, who turns 104 Monday.

        “It's like she's eating steak and gravy. She tells me, "That's how I lived past 100.'”

        Mrs. Hill's recipe — plus a dash of no smoking and no drinking — must work because she is among the oldest Tristate residents.

    Centenarians like Mary Hill are becoming more common due to medical advances.
    In 1900, average life expectancy in the United States was 47. Today it is approaching 80 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    There are 72,000 centenarians in the United States, 2,000 in Ohio. By 2050, experts estimate, that national number will increase to 800,000, according to the Greater Cincinnati Centenarian Project.
        In 1999, she reluctantly moved into her first nursing home, Lake- ridge Villa, a North College Hill health and rehabilitation facility. She had lived on her own until age 97, still walking five blocks by herself to the Walnut Hills Kroger. She lived with family members for six years before going into the nursing home in November.

        Today, her family will gather at the nursing home to celebrate her birthday. Last year, nearly 100 family and church members celebrated No. 103.

        It took granddaughter Ms. Mathis of College Hill about 20 minutes to count all of Mrs. Hill's descendants. Final tally: six children ages 72 to 81, 20 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren, 47 great-great-grandchildren and five great-great-great grandchildren.

        Mrs. Hill was born in 1896. That year, the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece.

        Mrs. Hill was born as an only child in Columbiana, Ala. Her family moved to Cincinnati in the 1950s.

        She has never driven a car or ridden in an airplane. She has never used a computer and had never heard of the Internet before talking to a reporter last week. She has lived a slow life, but enjoyed it.


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