Susannah Mushatt Jones (July 6th 1899 to May 12th 2016) of New York was the oldest living person in the world till she died this past week at the Vandalia Senior Center in East New York, Brooklyn. She was 116 years old. She was the last living person in the US who was born in the 1800s.
There is one other person left in the world from the 1800s: Emma Morano of Italy. She is also 116, four month younger than Jones. With Jones’s passing, she now becomes the oldest person in the world. (The oldest person ever on record is Jeanne Calment (1875-1997) of France who died at 122.)
Both Jones and Morano were only briefly married, loved to eat eggs for breakfast (raw for Morano, scrambled for Jones) and had relatives who lived over 100. Jones had no children, Morano’s only child died after six months. Jones had four strips of bacon every morning. On average, though, for most people, eating processed meat and being single seems to shorten life.
Jones credits her long life to plenty of sleep (at least 10 hours a day) and no smoking or drinking. She also took a daily vitamin. Genes seemed to have played a part: according to census records, she had a grandmother who lived to 117.
Also born in 1899: Duke Ellington, Al Capone, Gloria Swanson, Ernest Hemingway, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart and Alfred Hitchcock. When she was born William McKinley was president and no plane had yet flown through the sky.
Jones was the granddaughter of slaves, the daughter of sharecroppers, the third of 11 children and the oldest girl. She was born in Lowndes County, Alabama, in between Selma and Montgomery.
In 1922 Jones got her high school degree. That was back when less than a tenth of Blacks and a third of Whites completed high school. She wanted to be a teacher and was accepted at Tuskegee, but her parents did not have the money. Later in life, Jones would help to put her nieces through university.
In 1923 she came to New York in the early days of the Harlem Renaissance. A subway ride was just five cents! She took part in the Great Migration, taking in relatives from down South.
She worked till 1965, mostly as a nanny for rich families, which would sometimes take her to places like Hollywood and Vermont.
Till age 100 she cooked for herself, mostly Southern food, like barbecue and collard greens.
At 101 or so she went blind. She lost much of her hearing too and needed a wheelchair. But the only medicine she took in her last years was for blood pressure.
At 112 she became the oldest person in New York, city and state.
At 115, on June 17th 2015, she became the oldest person in the US and the world. She found it hard to believe in a world so big.
Up until two weeks ago, she always got out of bed and had four strips of bacon, scrambled eggs and grits for breakfast.
– Abagond, 2016.