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The oldest living American has just celebrated her 116th birthday, surrounded by generations of her enormous family.
Born in Lancaster County, South Carolina, Hester Ford has lived through two world wars and two pandemics. A mother of 12, she is the family matriarch to an astonishing 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren and 120 great-great-grandchildren.
Well-wishers drove by Ford’s house in Charlotte on Saturday, August 15, as a way of celebrating the day with her safely during the ongoing pandemic. Gifts were left at the bottom of her driveway, and were later collected and brought into the home.
You can watch Hester’s drive-thru birthday celebrations here:
Hester’s official age is actually up for dispute, the Charlotte Observer reports. US Census Bureau documents state she was born in 1905, while a separate set of Census Bureau documents claim she was born in 1904.
But whether she is turning 115 or 116, she is now the oldest living person in America as of July 30, according to data compiled by the Gerontology Research Group.
Hester would be the third-oldest living person on the planet if she is indeed 116, but would be ‘just’ the sixth-oldest if she were 115. Without anyone knowing for sure, Hester’s birthday banners proudly proclaim ‘Happy 116th Birthday Mother’, and it looks as if she’s had a truly wonderful day.
Hester herself is unsure of why exactly she has lived so long, simply saying, ‘I just live right, that’s all’.
Hester married John Ford at the age of 14 and gave birth to their first child at the age of 15, WBTV reports.
While John worked at a local steel mill, Hester spent her time taking care of the house, the farm and, of course, their 12 children. John Ford sadly died in 1963 at the age of 57, with Hester having now gone on to live twice as long as her late husband.
The supercentenarian was reportedly fortunate enough never to need hospital treatment until the grand old age of 108. She lived in her own home without assistance until this age, with three of her daughters having moved back in with her over the past several years.
Prior to the pandemic, Hester was still attending mass on the first Sunday of every month and is said to still have her wits about her. She can feed herself, walk short distances with the aid of a walking frame and can even recite the 23rd Psalm by heart when prompted.
Her granddaughter Mary Hill, who is an ordained minister, said:
We just thank God for just keeping her here for us, because it gives us hope. We would never want her to be here if she was sick.
[…] We want her to have a great quality of life in her elder years. We don’t want her to be sick or anything, and trying to hold on
Happy Birthday Hester!
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GERONTOLOGY RESEARCH GROUP
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