Obit of the Day: The World’s Oldest Person
Besse Cooper was born on August 26, 1896, the same year as F. Scott Fitzgerald. President Grover Cleveland was finishing his second term in the White House. The Wright Brothers were making bicycles, not airplanes. Women would not vote for 24 more years.
When Mrs. Cooper passed away on December 4, 2012, she was the oldest person in the world, at 116 years and 100 days, according to Guinness World Records. She had held the title since January 2011 when she was more than 114 years old. (In May of that year Maria Gomes Valentim of Brazil was discovered to be older, and for 45 days Mrs. Cooper was second. When Mrs. Valentim died, Mrs. Cooper regained the title.)
Growing up in Tennessee - in a log cabin - she attended what is now East Tennessee State University and was certified as a teacher. She moved to Georgia after graduation to find a job. (She did and earned $35 per month.) In 1924, she married Luther Cooper. He passed away in 1963. She never remarried.
The Coopers had four children who are all still living: Angeline (1929), Luther, Jr. (1932), Sidney (1935), and Nancy (1944). At the time of her death she also had 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.
Mrs. Cooper, who joined the women’s suffrage movement years before the passage of the 19th Amendment, voted in every election beginning in 1920, except for two. (She and her husband did not vote for Gov. Thomas Dewey in 1948 because they assumed that he would easily defeat President Truman. She did not vote in 2012 either.)
Asked last year by Guinness for her secret of long life she replied, “I mind my own business, and I don’t eat junk food.”
Note: Upon the death of Mrs. Cooper, Dina Manfredini of Des Moines, Iowa, became the oldest person in the world. She is 115 years old and will turn 116 in April 2013.
(Image of Mrs. Besse Cooper from February 2011, just after she was named the oldest person in the world is copyright Dan Goldman/AP and courtesy of The NY Daily News.)
Some other supercentenarians featured on Obit of the Day: