“Hi, Darb!” is the friendly greeting he hears when he comes to exercise at Parkland Health Center’s Huckstep Heart & Lung Center. He actually finished his required cardiac rehabilitation two years ago when he was ONLY 99 years old. At the age of 101, he still comes at least three times a week to visit and do a full workout. “Darb” is the Huckstep Center’s beloved Darby Downey, and he has the distinction of being their oldest patient. He neither looks nor acts his age.
Born in 1918, Darby can remember life without the modern conveniences that we now take for granted – like electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones. He served in the Army during World War II, then worked as a surveyor for an oil company and the Missouri Highway Department.
He spent 76 years of marriage with the love of his life, Yvette Bullock (affectionately known as “Y”) before her passing last year. Their grown children, Jeannie Lewis and Ross Downey, live in this community and raised their families here.
Darby says his faith has been key to his long and healthy life. “And my wife fed me good,” he adds with a smile. Darby has also made smart decisions like watching his weight, staying active and quitting smoking at the age of 28.
When asked why he keeps coming to Huckstep Center, Darby says, “I do it to keep up my strength. I also get to know everybody.” He is one of many patients who continue to come after completing the required rehabilitation because of the festive atmosphere. There are birthday parties, music theme days and holiday celebrations – and many patients say it’s like a family. They often bring food to share or meet for coffee and conversation after their workout.
Darby speaks very highly of the Huckstep Center staff, who help make it such a fun, friendly place -- even while taking their jobs very seriously. And here’s what they have to say about Darby:
“Darby always has a smiling, happy face. He always puts a cheer into the room.”
- Matt Weber, exercise physiologist
“We’ve had patients who have expressed that the exercise is too much because they are too old. Every time that happens, Darby is our example, and we say, ‘no you’re not.’ Darby will be over on a treadmill, working extremely hard, putting in the time, and he’s a good example that you’re not too old to do this.”
- Derek Smallen, exercise physiologist
“I’ve never heard Darby complain about anything, about being tired, or not feeling good. He’s always here with a positive attitude, and he loves coming in and visiting with everyone. He’s always smiling.”
- Belinda Drennen, respiratory therapist
“We think that we have seen a lot in our lifetime and we see so many frequent changes, but Darby has had to adapt to so much -- cars, electricity, telephones, television, computers. And the fact that he owns and uses a cell phone and drives his own car is just amazing.”
- Kathy David, staff nurse
“Darby is an inspiration. Darby is…wow!”
- Stephanie Privett, manager