Our pe­ri­odic round-up of su­per-cen­te­nar­i­ans and their top tips for a long and happy life

Fortean Times - - STRANGE DAYS -

An­other gen­er­a­tion of su­per­cente­nar­i­ans has been in the news since our last roundup [ FT346:18-20]. The old­est per­son whose age is be­yond doubt is still the French­woman Jeanne Cal­ment, who died in 1997 aged 122 years and 164 days, though (as usual) there are older claimants. Cen­te­nar­i­ans are con­stantly asked for the “se­cret’ of their longevity, and their an­swers are fre­quently bizarre. Mary Charl­ton (104) of New­cas­tle in­sisted her longevity was down to a ba­con sand­wich ev­ery morn­ing, while Ma­bel Glover (106) of Mac­cles­field said her se­cret was tak­ing two as­pirins ev­ery day. Kay Travis (107) of Sh­effield drinks a daily glass of whisky and Lily Welch (100) of South Ty­ne­side said a daily packet of pork scratch­ings was her “elixir of life”. John Mans­field (108), pos­si­bly the old­est man in the UK be­fore his death in 2016, put his longevity down to drink­ing vine­gar. Grace Jones, a re­tired milliner from Broad­way in Worces­ter­shire, turned 111 on 17 Septem­ber 2017. She has had a glass of Scotch whisky ev­ery night be­fore bed for the last 58 years, and swears by it. Ac­cord­ing to her daugh­ter, “She doesn’t worry. She’s al­ways said, ‘Worry doesn’t do you any good at all’.” An­other Grace Jones was al­most 114 when she died in 2013 [ FT346:19].

D.Ex­press, 2 Dec 2016; Sun, 25 May, 17 Aug; D.Mir­ror, 12 Aug, 19 Sept; in­sid­eed­i­, 18 Sept; Metro, 22 Nov 2017.


Those marked with an as­ter­isk have had their longevity claims ac­cepted by the Geron­tol­ogy Re­search Group in Los An­ge­les and Guin­ness World Records. The min­i­mum re­quire­ment is of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion from be­fore the claimant turns 20.


Sa­parman Sodimedjo, aka Mbah Ghoto (‘Grandpa Ghoto’), died in his home­town of Sra­gen in cen­tral Java on 30 April 2017. Ac­cord­ing to his pa­pers, he was born on 31 De­cem­ber 1870. Even though In­done­sia only started record­ing births in 1900, of­fi­cials in­sisted his res­i­dency card, which had his birth date on it, was valid, based on doc­u­ments and in­ter­views with him. A heavy smoker un­til the end, he out­lived four wives, 10 sib­lings and all his chil­dren. His last wife died in 1988. In his vil­lage, he was a lo­cal hero fa­mous for telling great sto­ries about the wars against Ja­pan and the Dutch colonis­ers. One of his ear­li­est (al­leged) mem­o­ries was watch­ing the open­ing of the Gon­dang sugar fac­tory in 1880, when he was 10. “Life is only a mat­ter of ac­cept­ing your des­tiny whole­heart­edly,” he said. “I have wanted to die for a long time.” He was buried close to the graves of his chil­dren. His tomb­stone had been ready, lean­ing against his house, for 24 years. The old­est man who ever lived, whose age is ver­i­fied, is Jiroe­mon Kimura from Ja­pan, who died on 12 June 2013, aged 116 years and 54 days.


When Marta Ramirez agreed at the age of 63 to take in a des­ti­tute nona­ge­nar­ian, she did not see it as a long-term im­po­si­tion. His house had burned down, he had no one else and he looked frail. “He was 99, I didn’t think he’d be around that much longer,” Ramirez re­called. She is now 85, and her long-term guest, Celino Vil­lanueva Jeramillo, is 121 – prob­a­bly the world’s old­est liv­ing man. He lost his birth cer­tifi­cate in the fire, but the birth date on his ID card reads 1896. “Check­ing our records, Celino Vil­lanueva Jeramillo was ef­fec­tively born on 25 July 1896,” said Jacqueline Salinas, one of the heads of the de­mo­graphic depart­ment at Chile’s Of­fice of Sta­tis­tics. (We do won­der what that “ef­fec­tively” means.) Jaramillo was born in the town of Rio Bueno. For the last 30 years or so of his work­ing life, he was an agri­cul­tural labourer for a landowner, Am­bro­sio Toledo, who dis­missed him when he turned 80. He moved to the coastal vil­lage of Me­huin, rent­ing a shack with a dirt floor and a fire­place in the mid­dle, over which he would hang his fish to smoke (a loose em­ber set the shack alight).


Ac­cord­ing to his pass­port, In­dian farmer Dharam Singh was born on 6 Oc­to­ber 1897, which would have made him 119 when he hoped to fly to Perth in or­der to run in the World Mas­ters Athletics Cham­pi­onships in Oc­to­ber 2016. He had paid his en­try fee, but did not have money to buy an air­line ticket. He said his longevity se­cret was milk, herbal chut­ney and sea­sonal fruit. He avoided but­ter, fried food, sugar, to­bacco, al­co­hol, tea, and coffee. He be­gan run­ning while herd­ing cows as a teenager, and still tried to run four to five kilo­me­tres ev­ery day.


This mother of six was born in Ja­maica on 10 March 1900 and died on 15 Septem­ber 2017. She be­came the old­est ver­i­fied liv­ing per­son on the death of Emma Mo­rano (be­low). She cred­ited her long life to eat­ing cows’ feet, not drink­ing rum and read­ing the Bible. Her son Har­land Fair­weather had died be­fore her, on 19 April 2017, aged a mere 97. Fol­low­ing her death, her longevity ti­tle passed to a Ja­panese woman, Nabi Tai­jima, born 4 Au­gust 1900. An­other Ja­panese woman, Chiyo Miyako, was born on 2 May 1901, while the Ital­ian Giusep­pina Pro­jetto was born on 30 May 1902. Kristina Nagor­naya from Ukraine claims to be 117.


Emma Mo­rano was born in Pied­mont, Italy, on 29 Novem­ber 1899 and died in­Ver­ba­nia on 15 April 2017. She kicked out her vi­o­lent hus­band in 1938, shortly af­ter the death of their only child. She never mar­ried again and worked in a fac­tory till she was 65. She has eaten three eggs ev­ery day (two of them raw) since she was 20, when a doc­tor rec­om­mended them to counter anæmia. She also ate small quan­ti­ties of raw minced meat and en­joyed a reg­u­lar glass of grappa. She out­lived her eight broth­ers and sis­ters, in­clud­ing one who reached the age of 102.


Fol­low­ing the death of Goldie Michel­son (113) of Worces­ter, Mas­sachusetts, in July 2016,

He was a lo­cal hero, fa­mous for telling sto­ries about the wars

Adele Dunlap was recog­nised as the old­est per­son in the US. She was born in Ne­wark, New Jer­sey, on 12 De­cem­ber 1902, and died in Flem­ing­ton, NJ, on 5 Fe­bru­ary 2017, where­upon the US longevity ti­tle passed to Del­phine Gib­son (113) of Hunt­ing­don County, Penn­syl­va­nia.


Yisrael Kristal cel­e­brated his bar mitz­vah in Haifa, Is­rael, on 6 Oc­to­ber 2016, his birth­day in the He­brew cal­en­dar, in the pres­ence of his two sur­viv­ing chil­dren, along with grand­chil­dren and nearly 30 great-grand­chil­dren. The Jewish com­ing-of-age cer­e­mony was a cen­tury late; it had not taken place in 1916 be­cause his mother had died three years ear­lier, while his fa­ther had been drafted into the Rus­sian army and in 1919 died of ty­phus.

Yisrael was born Izrel Icek Krysz­tal in Male­niec, near Zarnów in what is now Poland, on 15 Septem­ber 1903 and was recog­nised as the world’s old­est man by Guin­ness World Records in March 2016. The odds had been mas­sively stacked against his sur­vival (see FT346:20). He be­come a master con­fec­tioner in Łód , mar­ried Chaja Feige Frucht in 1928 and had two chil­dren. In 1940 the Nazis moved the fam­ily to the Łód ghetto, where the chil­dren died. In 1944, Yisrael and Chaja were de­ported to Auschwitz-Birke­nau, where Chaja was mur­dered. Yisrael sur­vived as a slave labourer there and in other camps be­fore be­ing lib­er­ated by the Red Army in 1945, when he weighed just 37kg (82lb). He thanked his res­cuers by mak­ing them sweets.

Yisrael re­turned to Łód , mar­ried an­other Holo­caust sur­vivor, and in 1950 moved to Haifa with his sec­ond wife and their son. Here he built up an­other con­fec­tionary busi­ness, sired a daugh­ter, and died on 11 Au­gust 2017. He en­joyed daily help­ings of pick­led her­ring and as a younger man in his 80s had a taste for wine and beer. His daugh­ter Shula Ku­per­stoch said: “De­spite all that he went through… he al­ways saw only light and good in ev­ery­thing.”


This man might have been the world’s old­est on the death of Yisrael Kristal, but he was not recog­nised as such by the Geron­tol­ogy Re­search Group, as his birth records were de­stroyed dur­ing the Span­ish Civil War. He was born, al­legedly, on 13 De­cem­ber 1904 in the vil­lage of Bien­venida in Bada­joz, south-west Spain, and died on 29 Jan­uary 2018, in the same vil­lage. The re­tired farmer had four chil­dren, nine grand­chil­dren and 15 great­grand­chil­dren. He fought in the Rif War in the early 1920s be­tween Spain and the Ber­ber tribes in Morocco, and went out for daily walks alone un­til he was 107. He started to read again aged 98 af­ter a cataract op­er­a­tion, one of only two oc­ca­sions he went to hos­pi­tal. Rel­a­tives at­trib­uted his longevity to a diet based on veg­eta­bles he grew him­self and a daily glass of red wine. His reg­u­lar break­fast was sponge cake made with olive oil and a glass of milk. He was known as Marchena be­cause of his like­ness to a Span­ish fla­menco singer who used that stage name, and was one of 30 peo­ple over the age of 90 among the 2,300 in­hab­i­tants of Bien­venida.

His ti­tle of world’s old­est man passed to Masazou Non­aka, who was born on 25 July 1905. Last De­cem­ber saw the death of Don Je­sus Castillo Ran­gel in Mex­ico, al­legedly at the age of 121; and in March 2016 came news of a Brazil­ian called Joao Coelho de Souza, who was 131, ac­cord­ing to his birth cer­tifi­cate. SOURCES

Brown: (Queens­land) Courier Mail, 21 April; Sun­day Ex­press, 17 Sept 2017. De Souza: D.Mail, 9 Mar 2016. Dunlap: [AP] 9 Feb 2017. Ghoto: D.Mir­ror, 2 Jan, 1 May; BBC News, 1 May; the­, 2 May 2017.

Jaramillo: Guardian, 6 Nov 2017. Kristal: Int. Her­ald Tri­bune, 8 Oct 2016; BBC News, 11 Aug; irishex­am­, 12 Aug 2017.

Mo­rano: [R] Ir­ish Times, 17 April 2017. Nagor­naya: Metro, 22 Sept 2017. Olivera:, 30 Jan; D.Mail, 31 Jan 2018. Ran­gel: D.Mir­ror, 22 Dec 2017. Singh: Int. Her­ald Tri­bune, 21 Nov 2016.

LEFT: Mbah Gotho celebrating his 146th birth­day in De­cem­ber 2016.

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