Secret to Johnston woman's longevity: ‘Don’t give a damn!’


The year was 1922 … the price of gas was just 21 cents a gallon and an automobile could be purchased for between $1,100 to $2,000.

It was a year that many prolific women were born: Judy Garland, Doris Day, Betty White, Ava Gardner, Bea Arthur, Cyd Charisse and Johnston’s own Joan Margaret Osterhout Ruberg.

Ruberg, a woman of many notable achievements entered the Centenarian Club this week when, surrounded by her daughter Carol Nahod, son-in-law Michael Nahod, her Briarcliffe caregivers, Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, Briarcliffe President and CEO Akshay K. Tawlar, and Briarcliffe Vice President of Operations Kyle Naylor, she celebrated her 100th Birthday on Sept. 6 at Briarcliffe Gardens in Johnston.

In addition to a special proclamation from Polisena, Ruberg was presented with 100 hand made cards courtesy of Mrs. Cerbo’s Fifth Grade Class at Thornton Elementary School in Johnston.

Briarcliffe Gardens Activity Director and master party planner Jennifer Rossi coordinated with the students who incorporated mentions of some of Joan’s favorite things in their hand made cards: coffee, butterflies and the beach along with her favorite colors, lavender and gold, which were also reflected in the party décor of over 100 balloons including a grouping spelling out Happy 100th Birthday.

It’s worth noting that Joan is not a fan of cake, but loves ice cream, so the culinary team at Briarcliffe Gardens came up with a homemade ice cream cake in honor of the birthday girl. It featured a layer of chocolate cake, a layer of vanilla cake and a thick layer of ice cream in the middle. Decorated in the theme colors of the party, it didn’t last long!

Local entertainer Kim Oakes Parenteau was on hand to lead happy birthday and sang a medley of some of Joan’s favorite songs. Joan’s caregivers added their birthday tributes:

“I love Joan’s humor.”

“She is the funniest person and super carefree and goes with the flow.”

“I love Joan’s spunky, down to earth attitude.”

“I love her witty personality.”

Ruberg was born in Detroit, Michigan to Grace and Peter Osterhout. Her mother, Grace, was a homemaker and her father, Peter, was a home builder. Joan refers to herself as the caboose of the family, born after Grace and Peter were married more than 20 years. She had four older siblings who are now deceased: Garnett, Olive, Lena and Clifford Ruberg. She attended school in Windsor, Canada, from her home in Detroit. She loved history, literature and can still, at 100 years young, recite poetry and lines from Macbeth.

After graduating high school, Joan found it challenging to find a job that was fulfilling so she joined the U.S. Navy. At that time, America was fighting the Korean War. She enlisted in March, 1950, and discharged in October, 1953, when she and her husband decided to begin a family. Upon discharge, Joan was awarded the American Defense Medal.

Joan Osterhout met her husband, Albert Ruberg, who was also in the military, at Camp LeJune in North Carolina. They were married in 1953 and soon after started their family and had a baby girl, Carol, while Albert was stationed in Bethesda, Maryland.

She became a hematology lab technician and was employed at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, for more than 30 years. While living in Bethesda, Joan attended classes at Montgomery County Junior College in Rockville, and often took classes just to learn new things, along with her husband who occasionally joined her learning journey.

Ruberg had a passion for art and the civil war trail. She retired after more than three decades and then had fun traveling the Civil War trail with her family and enjoying life to the fullest. She loves the ocean and the beach, being by the water. She tended beautiful gardens and loved rocks and stones (she would sometimes make her hubby stop on the side of the road for a rock she was interested in). Joan had a gift for art; oil and acrylic paints were her favored mediums.

Joan was widowed in 2001 and has been a Rhode Island resident for more than 20 years since joining her daughter Carol Nahod and son-in-law, Michael, in the Ocean State. She has been an active member of the Briarcliffe Gardens community since February of 2020 and is admired by all.

When asked for her secret to longevity, Joan replied: “Don’t give a damn!”

Happy Birthday Joan!

Editor’s Note: Stefany L. Reed serves as Marketing Director at Briarcliffe Gardens.


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