The family of Hester Ford, the woman once regarded as the oldest living American, announced their matriarch peacefully passed away on Saturday at her Charlotte residence. They said she was 116 though the Gerontology Research Group reportedly filed her age as 115 years and 245 days old.
Ford is survived by 12 children, 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren, and about 120 great-great-grandchildren, WCNC reported.
“It’s a sad day but it’s also a great day in heaven,” Ford’s great-grandaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe said in a statement. “Although we’re saddened by it, we take great pride in the legacy that she does leave behind.”
Born in Lancaster, South Carolina, on August 15, 1904, Ford’s family said she worked on a cotton farm before moving to Charlotte in 1953. For over 20 years, she was employed as a nanny for a family living in the affluent Myers Park neighborhood. Her Charlotte residence had also been her place of abode for over 58 years.
“She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much needed love, support and understanding to us all,” the statement said. “She was the seed that sprouted leaves and branches which is now our family. God saw fit to make her the matriarch of your [sic] family and blessed us to be her caretakers and recipients of her legacy.”
Ford, who was born when Theodore Roosevelt had started his second term as president of the United States, experienced a handful of historic periods including the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the two world wars, as well as, the Civil Rights era. Patterson-Powe, in the statement, said, “In times that were troublesome, when there were so many injustices taking place, it was her faith that kept her moving.”
She added: “Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing real life experience of over 100 years. 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.”
A well-respected community member, Ford was honored by Mecklenburg County last year after it declared September 1 as “Mother Hester McCardell Ford Day”, WCNC reported. Her great grand-daughter lauded her for serving as an inspiration to numerous individuals in the community.
“She wanted people to have the type of faith that she had; to be able to believe that anything is possible,” she said.
In an email to CNN, Patterson-Powe further praised her for being a trailblazing and persevering woman. “It is overwhelming, yet an awakening experience to realize my grandmother wasn’t just an ordinary woman, she was E-X-T-R-A-ordinary,” she said. “She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’ as she was a master inventor and innovator — a trailblazer setting her own trends within the community and her home.
The Gerontology Research Group has listed Thelma Sutcliffe as the oldest living American following Ford’s death. The Nebraska native was born in 1906. Currently, 118-year-old Japanese supercentenarian Kane Tanaka is officially recognized as the world’s oldest living person.