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America’s oldest living person and Charlotte, N.C. native, Hester Ford, has died, according to a statement by her family. She was 116.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Mother Hester McCardell Ford today,” the statement posted to Facebook on Saturday read. “She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much-needed love, support and understanding to us all,”

Ford, who turned 116 last August, had a birthday celebration like none other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a hundred cars lined the street outside her house to give her a mock parade and help her and her family celebrate the momentous event.

She held the title of oldest living American for the past 17 months when New York resident Alelia Murphy died at 114 on Nov. 28, 2019. Two years ago, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles proclaimed Aug. 15 as “Hester McCardell Ford Day” and she was able to celebrate at the event with her friends and family.

Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, S.C., where she grew up tending to cotton. She was married at 14 to John Ford and the couple had 12 children. Hester took care of the house, farm, and the children while John worked at a local steel mill.

The Fords moved north to Charlotte in 1953, ten years before John passed away at the age of 57. Hester survived her late husband by 58 years.

According to the Charlotte Observer, in addition to her 12 children, Ford had “68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren.” Hester and John’s first child was born during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

 

Ford was classified as the world’s sixth-oldest living person.

Kane Tanaka of Japan is the oldest (118 years, 107 days), followed by France’s Lucile Radon (117 years, 67 days) as the top two. The top 54 on the list of the oldest people in the world are all woman. The oldest current living man is U.S. resident Emilio Flores Marquez (112 years, 254 days), according to Gerontology.

The world’s oldest person on record was Jeanne Louise Calment from Arles, France who died Aug. 4, 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days old, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

With Ford’s passing, Nebraska native Thelma Sutcliffe is now the oldest living American at 114 years and 200 days old, according to Gerontology.

 

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