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Concordia Resident's Husband Recalls Wife's Time as a Jeopardy! Champion

March 3, 2015

In 2004, Ken Jennings became a household name after setting the record for most consecutive Jeopardy! wins: 75 victories in a row. During that run, his earnings surpassed a whopping $2.5 million. Suffice to say, one can argue that Jennings was defined by his Jeopardy! success.

A lesser-known Jeopardy! champion was Ruth K., who was on the show in 1967. Like Jennings, a couple of her stronger categories were literature and history. Unlike Jennings, however, Ruth’s life wouldn’t be defined by a game show – according to her husband of 67 years, Joe. (Pictures below)

Ruth, 93, has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for eight years, and is a resident at Concordia of Fox Chapel. She doesn’t communicate as well as she once did, but her family still loves telling the story of their matriarch’s success on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show.”

In Jeopardy!’s early years, it was broadcast during the day, and Ruth – then an English teacher in Fort Lee, NJ – was a natural. She was so good, in fact, that her kids would tease that they were going to call the show and volunteer her to be on. So one day during Christmas break, she decided to take the offensive and go audition (the show was then taped in New York City, about 40 minutes from Fort Lee).

Looking back, Joe said he remembers the moment he knew they were going to choose her.

“Back then, they wanted to see the potential-contestants personality, so when a question was asked, they would all have to answer, even if they didn’t buzz in first,” he said. “The category had something to do with bread, and the question was something along the lines of, ‘This has two cups.’ The correct answer was something like, ‘What is the amount of flour in a loaf of bread.’ Ruth’s answer was, ‘What is a bra?’”

Wouldn’t you know: a week and a half later, the producers called and told her she was chosen for the show. She packed her Sunday best, headed back to the city and said a quick prayer that she would do well…

She ended up being a four-day champion.

“That fifth show, she was in great shape until she ran into a sports category,” Joe said with a laugh. “That category ruined her!”

Ruth didn’t let her 15 minutes of fame deter her from pursuing her true passions: teaching, volunteering with neglected children, and being the best mother and wife she could be.

Ruth and Joe moved to Pittsburgh after their retirement, wanting to spend some more time with their grandchildren. Years later, Ruth started showing some signs of cognitive decline – dwelling on negative events in the news, having trouble holding conversations, etc. Eventually, she started falling regularly, and Joe, despite his best efforts, became unable to give her the level of care she needed.

While it was difficult at the time, the family decided she should be in a dedicated Memory Care facility. A friend of their son’s recommended Concordia of Fox Chapel and Ruth moved in December 2013.

“The people there, they are just super caregivers,” Joe said. “Everything about that environment is in place to help her thrive. We know we made the right choice.”

As a dedicated memory care facility, Concordia of Fox Chapel has the resources, staff and expertise to care for individuals with a memory-impairing illness. For more information or to schedule a visit to Concordia of Fox Chapel, please call the Facility Director at 412-767-5808.

Individuals with dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other memory-impairing ailments often require specialized care. While all of the Concordia Personal Care facilities are equipped to care for individuals with those issues, our dedicated memory care facilities truly give residents the opportunity to thrive. Visit the Memory Care section of our website to learn more, or you can always message us through our Contact form.

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