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Hester Ford, believed to be the oldest living American—116-years-old by some census reports, 115-years-old by others—died on April 17 at home in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Gerontology, she was one of the top ten validated oldest Americans of all time, tying in age with Edna Parker, and one of the 50 longest-lived validated people in history. Ford lived through World War I, the 1918 flu pandemic, World War II, and this past year amid coronavirus pandemic.
"It's a sad day, but it's also a great day in heaven," her great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe told WCNC Charlotte. "Although we're saddened by it, we take great pride in the legacy that she does leave behind."
As we've previously reported, the super-centenarian was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina, where she worked on cotton fields. At 14, she married John Ford and gave birth to the first of the couple's 12 children at age 15. In total, Ford's children welcomed 48 grandchildren, followed by 108 great-grandchildren, and approximately 120 great-great-grandchildren.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Mother Hester McCardell Ford today. She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much needed love, support and understanding to us all. She was the seed that sprouted leaves and branches which is now our family. God saw fit to make her the matriarch of our family and blessed us to be her caretakers and recipients of her legacy," a family statement posted by Tya Monte Powe on Facebook read.
Courtesy of the Ford family.
"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. She has been celebrated all over the world by local governments, community leaders, social media, foreign dignities and Presidents as a cherished jewel of society for holding the honor of being the oldest living person in America," the missive continued.
"Although she has passed, her legacy and memory will continue to live on through her family and everyone she has touched to make the world a better place for generations to come."
Ford attributed her longevity to her deeply rooted faith. "[Ford] is just reaping the benefits of the seed that she's already sown," Ford's granddaughter, Mary Hill, told Yahoo Life just after Ford turned 116 (or was it 115?) this past August. "She taught us to live by faith, not by sight, and always know to help others."
"I'm living for the Lord, hun," Ford told the news outlet, in what they called "a surprisingly strong voice."
A life well lived, a life well-loved. A Southerner who stood for much and was battered down by little, we hope her family can take comfort in her inspiring life during this difficult time.