Hester McCardell Ford Charlotte, North Carolina resident and oldest living American dies at age 115 or maybe 116. Family matriarch gave hints to her longevity.
A North Carolina woman believed to be the oldest living person in the United States and among the oldest human beings on the planet, at age 115 or possibly even, 116, died peacefully at her home in Charlotte on Saturday, according to her family.
Hester McCardell Ford lived more than twice as long as her late husband — John Ford, who died at age 57 in 1963 — and was the matriarch of a large family which included 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, said in a statement emailed to the CharlotteObserver over the weekend. ‘She was the seed that sprouted leaves and branches which is now our family. God saw fit to make her the matriarch of your family and blessed us to be her caretakers and recipients of her legacy.’
Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, S.C., where she grew up plowing and picking cotton. She was married at 14 to John Ford, and gave birth to the first of the couple’s 12 children at age 15. Hester took care of the house, farm and the children while John worked at a local steel mill.
After her husband died, for the next half-century — until she was 108 — Ford continued to live without live-in assistance. It was only after she fell in the bathtub and bruised her ribs that family members insisted someone move in with her.
Was 108 before she was first hospitalized
In a testament to her durability, that was the first time in her life Ford had ever needed to be hospitalized for any reason.
For the past several years, she had family members living in the home with her and helping to care for her.
According to her family, U.S. Census Bureau documents indicate she was born in 1905, but then another set of Census Bureau documents say she was born in 1904. Either way — whether Ford was 115 or 116 — before her death she was the oldest person on record living in the United States, based on data compiled by the Gerontology Research Group.
Robert D. Young, director of the GRG’s supercentenarian research and database division, told the Observer Sunday that the weight of the evidence suggests that age 115 is more likely.
Secret to longevity
‘The reality is, Hester Ford’s age, even at 115, still made her the last known American born before 1906,’ Young said in an email. ‘When you consider that she was a mother of a WWII-era veteran … it really puts into perspective: This was one of our last living links to an era that is nearly bygone.’
Ford became the oldest living American last November, when North Carolina native Alelia Murphy died in New York at 114 years and 140 days old. Young said that the new ‘oldest living American’ is believed to be Thelma Sutcliffe, 114, of Nebraska. Sutcliffe is more than a year younger than Hester Ford.
The oldest living human is Japan’s Kane Tanaka, who turned 118 on Jan. 2. Young said Tanaka is now the only known remaining mother of a WWII veteran.
In her final years, Ford’s family said the matriach’s 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,’ she said when asked about the secret to her longevity.