North Carolina’s Hester Ford, Oldest Living Person in the U.S., Dies at 116

Hester McCardell Ford, believed to be the oldest living person in the United States and among the oldest human beings on the planet, died peacefully at her home in Charlotte on Saturday, according to her family. She was at least 115, but possibly as old as 116.

She lived more than twice as long as her late husband — John Ford, who died at age 57 in 1963 — and was the matriarch of an enormous family: 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,” said her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, in a statement emailed to the Observer on Saturday. “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.

The couple eventually sold the farm and moved to Charlotte, building a house near the intersection of Interstates 77 and 85 around 1960.

After her husband died three years later, for the next half-century — until she was 108 — Ford continued to live in that same house in the Dalebrook neighborhood on her own (that’s right, 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.

In a testament to her durability, that was the first time in her life Ford had ever needed to be hospitalized for any reason.

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SOURCE: The News & Observer, Theoden Jones