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World’s oldest person dies days after earning the title

Weaver
Weaver
Christine Mai-Duc Los Angeles Times

On Wednesday, Gertrude Weaver was unofficially named the world’s oldest person, and she celebrated by having her nails painted pink and answering reporters’ questions.

On Monday, just six days later, Weaver died at the age of 116 in Camden, Arkansas.

Weaver died about 10 a.m. Monday from complications of pneumonia, according to Kathy Langley, an administrator at Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation, where Weaver lived.

“It was absolutely unexpected; it’s quite a shock to all of us,” Langley said.

Weaver became known as the world’s oldest verified person after the death of a 117-year-old Japanese woman, Misao Okawa, last week. Guinness World Records had not yet officially named Weaver the world’s oldest person, but will probably grant her the title posthumously, said Robert Young, who tracks supercentenarians, or people over the age of 110, for the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group.

She was also, according to the GRG database, the seventh-oldest person ever; the oldest person ever was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died at the age of 122 years and 164 days.

“I thank God for that, I’m still alive,” Weaver told KARK-TV last week. “I’ve been here long. How do I look?” she said, with a laugh.

Young said the average reign for the world’s oldest person is about a year. This is not the first time someone has had such a short tenure. In 2007, Emma Tillman of Connecticut died just four days after becoming the world’s oldest person.

According to official records, Weaver was born July 4, 1898, in Texarkana, Arkansas; she would have turned 117 on the Fourth of July, and had said she wanted President Barack Obama to attend her birthday party.

The daughter of Arkansas sharecroppers, Weaver married in 1915 and was a homemaker and domestic worker. She moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s and lived in California for years before returning to Arkansas in the 1970s, her family said. Her husband, with whom she had four children, died in 1969.

The world’s oldest person is now believed to be 115-year-old Jeralean Talley, who lives with her 77-year-old daughter, Thelma Holloway, in Inkster, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

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