A woman believed to be the oldest known person in the United States passed away this weekend at the age of 115, The Charlotte Observer reports. Hester Ford died peacefully at her Charlotte home Saturday, leaving behind a family that includes 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,” Ford’s great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, said in a statement. “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 in Lancaster County, S.C., but it’s unclear what year exactly, as there is some suspicion that she could have been 116 years old at the time of her death. U.S. Census Bureau documents indicate that she was born in 1905, while another set of paperwork shows her birth year as 1904. Despite the discrepancy, Ford still stood as the oldest recorded person living in the U.S.
“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” Patterson-Powe said, per the AP.
Hester got married to John Ford at 14, and gave birth the following year to the first of their 12 children. The couple sold their farm and moved to a house in Charlotte around 1960. John died in 1963, but she remained in that same home by herself until she was 108, when her family insisted on having someone live with her after she bruised her ribs from a fall in the bathtub. Ford’s injury marked the first time that she ever needed to be hospitalized.
In 2019, Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles announced that Aug. 15 would be recognized as Hester McCardell Ford Day.
Ford became the oldest living person in the United States in November, following the death of Alelia Murphy at the age of 114 years and 140 days old. The oldest person in the world is Kane Tanaka of Japan, who turned 118 on Jan. 2.