DALLAS — A soon-to-be 105-year-old has seen the world change before her eyes.
She has lived through 20 presidencies, and even her older sister attended school with Richard Nixon. Mary John Hill says the secret in her longevity is getting eight hours of sleep and eating three meals a day.
Hill was born on May 4, 1916 in her family home in Fair Play, Missouri. The youngest of six, she was valedictorian and played basketball for her high school.
“They didn’t want me on the basketball team because I was too little, and I just loved basketball,” said Hill.
The 104-year-old lived most of her life in Missouri and 17 years ago moved to Dallas to be closer to her daughter, Linda Svehlak, 75.
At the time Hill, was not thrilled about the move. She was 88 and still driving. In Dallas her daughter opted to get her a driver. Hill was not pleased, but embraced it.
Svehlak says her mother has always believed in getting up, dressed and going out.
Despite being unable to drive, she would do her own grocery shopping and other errands.
The mother and daughter duo made it their tradition to meet up every Saturday for dinner.
“It has been wonderful, she could remember everything about all her family,” Svehlak said.
The wisdom Hill has been able to share with Svehlak has reinforced the bond between mother and daughter.
“She has been able to relay to me all her life experiences,” said Svehlak.
Hill tells her daughter, "there’s going to be ups and downs in life and you’re going to have to adjust."
In 2020 as the pandemic began, it became a hard adjustment for Hill. The 104-year-old lives in a high-rise condo. All visits between residents and external visitors stopped. She was no longer able to go to the grocery store, much less leave her home.
“It slowed her down,” Svehlak explained.
Hill attempted to make the best of it by cooking. Svehlak says her mother makes the best brownies.
Two months ago Hill received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Svehlak has planned a day of activities to celebrate her mother. The two will have lunch with friends at Al Biernats and cake will follow at Hill’s condo.
The 75-year-old set-up a birthday card for residents to sign, as well.
When asked if she’s excited to turn 105, Hill says, "oh, lord yes."