Oldest Person in America Dies at Age 116

Image Courtesy of CBS News

Image Courtesy of CBS News

Grace Mittleman, Staff Writer

Hester Ford; a North Carolina woman who was recognized as the oldest living American; passed away peacefully this past Saturday.

According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), Ford was at least 115 years and 245 days old at the time of her death. Her family, however, clarified that she was born on August 15, 1904, which would actually make her 116 years old.

Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina. She grew up plowing and picking cotton.  Hester married John Ford at age 14 and gave birth to the first of her 12 children at age 15.

The couple moved to Charlotte, where she lived for the rest of her life. Her husband died in 1963 at age 57, three years after the couple moved to Charlotte.

A widow, Ford then lived in the home on her own, without any assistance, until the age of 108, when she bruised ribs in a bathtub fall and her family members insisted on moving in to help. She lived in the home with her family until her death.

She gave birth to 12 children.  She also had 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren.

“She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much-needed love, support, and understanding to us all,” her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, spoke of Ford in a statement.  “She was the seed that sprouted leaves and branches which is now our family. God saw fit to make her the matriarch of our family and blessed us to be her caretakers and recipients of her legacy.”

Ford lived through the Spanish Flu, both World Wars, and the Civil Rights Movement.  Over the century, she has seen her country grow in numerous ways.  “Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing the real-life experience of over 100 years,” Patterson-Powe said in her statement. “She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth.”

In her final years of life, her family said her routine “involved a breakfast that always included half a banana, a trip outside for fresh air, weather permitting, and sitting in her recliner looking at family albums, doing puzzles, and listening to gospel music.”

“I just live right, all I know,” said Ford, when asked about the secrets of longevity, “I’m just so grateful. Just so grateful.”

Robert D. Young, director of the GRG’s supercentenarian research and database division, believes that the new “oldest living American” is believed to be Thelma Sutcliffe, 114, of Nebraska.