Hester Ford, the Oldest Woman in America, Dies at 115

Hester Ford, the Oldest Woman in America, Dies at 115

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America’s oldest person Hester Ford died on April 17. Hester’s exact age is still not yet declared as her records vary. In some, it is 115 and in some 116 years.

Hester Ford lived in North Carolina, and she died in her home. She has been a witness to the 1918 Pandemic Flu, World War I and II, The Civil Rights Movement, Sharecropping, The Great Depression and finally, The Coronavirus Pandemic.

Hester Ford had spent most of her childhood on a farm. When she was 14, Hester got married to John Ford, and they finally bought a farm together. Hester Ford and her husband stayed at Lancaster, S.C and raised their children there. The couple had a total of 12 children. Today only four of them are alive.

Hester Ford has been fortunate to have more than 125 great-grandchildren, 120 great-great-grandchildren, and 68 grandchildren.

After Hester’s demise, one of her great-granddaughters, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, put up a status on Facebook. In the statement, she said that Hester Ford was the stalwart and pillar of the family. Ford’s great-granddaughter added Hester has showered love and been understanding and supportive to the entire family. She further stated that the branches and sprouted leaves are the outcomes of Hester’s seed plantation, which is the current family. Tanisha also said that God had his blessings on her to keep her fit to remain the “matriarch” of the entire family. She concluded by saying they are blessed to be the recipients and caretakers to take Hester’s legacy forward.

Patterson-Powe’s reaction to NPR’s Weekend Edition

Tanisha Patterson-Powe spoke to the NPR’s Weekend Edition and revealed some facts about the Ford family. She explained that the family had to relocate to Charlotte from Lancaster when a member of the family was killed brutally. The incident took place during the 1950s, which worried her great-grandparents. Finally, that led them to leave the place and move to Charlotte. Patterson-Powe mentioned that lynching was quite prevalent then.

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Tanisha further said that while the family was in Charlotte for a couple of years, finally, they decided on buying a new house.

She recalled by saying it was during the early 60s. Further, she added by recalling the discrimination that took place between the Black and White. Tanisha said that it was tough to acquire possession at that time, but her great-grandparents accomplished it. Finally, she said that she is happy her great-grandmother passed away in that house on April 17.

After John died at the age of 57 in 1963, Hester still lived in the house at Charlotte. She was living there without any help till the age of 108, says A Charlotte Observer. But an unfortunate fall compelled the family to give her assistance.

More information about Tanisha’s interview

Patterson Powe further said that Hester’s light shines more than her area locally. Further, she added that since her life was over a century, she had real-time experience. Further, her great-granddaughter said that Hester’s contribution was not only for her own family, but it was also for the Black African American culture and race that resides in America. She was a constant reminder that would tell people how they have traveled so far.

President Obama’s birthday wishes to Hester Ford

Patterson-Powe told the NPR that she had seen 21 people becoming the President of the United States. But the most special moment she had was when Barack Obama got the honor of being the President.

Hester never expected that a Black man would ever be the President. During Obama’s time in office, both President and his wife, Michelle, sent Hester Ford a letter wishing her on her 111th birthday.

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The letter that Obama wrote to Hester Ford said that her story was an important part of America’s narrative. Obama added by saying Ford has been the witness of all the best things the United States has achieved. Further, he added that he and everyone else would work hand-in-hand to make tomorrow even brighter.

Hester ford took immense pride in that letter from Barrack Obama, said Patterson-Powe.

Hester Ford was aware of her right to vote. She knew the value of it more because, for a period of time in her life, she was not allowed to vote only for her Black skin. Hester’s great-granddaughter added that she did not miss her vote even during the pandemic in 2020. She went out and exercised her right to vote.

Patterson-Powe recalls the day by saying Hester got dressed in her tan dress which had white trim and sequin. Ford wore her white sneakers and hat and went out to vote. She concluded by saying, ‘She did her job.”

Supercentenarian’s secret to long life

When Hester’s great-granddaughter was asked the secret of Hester’s longevity, she said there was no secret. Ford always led a disciplined life and made sure she says her prayers many times a day.

Patterson-Powe wishes to take forward her great-grandmother’s legacy and follow her ideologies. She believes that she might not be what Hester Ford was but at least wishes to have half of it. Tanisha wants to hold onto the moment and live in whatever her great-grandmother taught her. ‘believe the way she believed,’ concluded Tanisha Patterson-Powe.

Shusree Mukherjee

Writing allows me to pour my heart out in words. So, that's what I've been doing for the past 6 years. I strive to bring in a change in the world by taking tiny steps of curating the right message that needs to be conveyed.

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