Staying Young Together

By Zachary Block '99 / January / February 2002
July 1st, 2007
Ruth Bugbee Lubrano, who turned 100 in October, was born long before high school students felt the need to prep for the SATs or to pad their college applications with extracurricular activities. She says she didn't even consider going to college until a conversation with her father late in the summer after her high school graduation.

"I can remember saying to my father, ԄDid you have any special plans for me in the fall?' " recalls Lubrano. "And he saying, ԗWell, of course, you're going to Pembroke.' "

And so she did, earning a degree in psychology, which led to a job as a social worker at the Rhode Island state mental hospital and, later, at the state infirmary. All the while, she was dating Jack Lubrano '24, a fellow Brown grad and a former classmate at Cranston High School. While they first met in a high school physics class, they didn't officially begin dating until Jack asked Ruth to the junior prom, a date Ruth at first turned down, preferring to keep her options open. But Jack persisted and the two went to the dance. They continued to date during college, mostly by attending dances and other formal events or by studying together at the John Hay Library.

Their dating grew more serious after graduation, and they were married on August 15, 1925, at her father's vacation home, an old inn in Clayville, Rhode Island. Ruth carried two bouquets down the aisle, one from Jack and the other from her father.

In 1938, after several years at home raising their son, David '52, Ruth returned to social work as head of social services at Planned Parenthood, known then as Maternal Health, where she counseled poor women on issues of prenatal health. "It was very hush- hush," she says of the attitude toward women's health at the time.

These days, Ruth spends most of her time caring for Jack, who is 102 and has been ill for several years.

"How come we stayed married for seventy-six years?" Ruth asked Jack during the interview for this article, raising her voice to a shout after he missed the question the first time.

"We agreed," Jack answered.

"We agreed," she said with a laugh. "We agreed not to disagree."

Ruth says the secret of their own longevity lies in the couple's mental and emotional attitudes. She and Jack always enjoyed being around people - especially young people, she adds - and Jack's sense of humor and easygoing manner helped defuse anger and frustration.

Lubrano says she's amazed at all that has changed over the past century, but she isn't dwelling on days gone by. She says her next challenge is to learn how to use a computer so she can communicate with her family - which includes their son, five grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren - by e-mail.

"I don't want my great-grandchildren to get ahead of me," she says.

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January / February 2002