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Oldest Living American, Mother Hester Ford, Dies at Age 115: ‘She Was a Pillar and Stalwart’

Mother Hester McCardell Ford, believed to have been the oldest living person in America, has passed away at the age of at least 115. 

Ford’s relatives told the Charlotte Observer their matriarch died peacefully at home April 17. Ford’s great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Power says their beloved relative was a “pillar and stalwart” to the entire family.

Hester Ford passes away at 125. (Credit: Family photos)

“She was the seed that sprouted leaves and branches which is now our family,” wrote Patterson-Power in a prepared statement. “God saw fit to make her the matriarch of our family and blessed us to be her caretakers and recipients of her legacy.”

Born Hester McCardell in Lancaster County, South Carolina, on Aug. 15, 1904 or 1905 — family says Ford’s true age is unclear due to varying Census reports — Ford’s life was one of humble beginnings. She grew up picking cotton alongside her family. On March 12, 1921 — when she was either 15 or 16 — the teenager wed her husband John Ford. The following year she gave birth to the first of the couple’s twelve children.

“The reality is, Hester Ford’s age, even at 115, still made her the last known American born before 1906,” Robert D. Young, director of the GRG’s supercentenarian research and database division, told The Observer. “When you consider that she was a mother of a WWII-era veteran … it really puts into perspective: This was one of our last living links to an era that is nearly bygone.”

During her lifetime Ford witnessed 21 U.S. presidencies, the civil rights movement, and two pandemics — Covid-19 and the 1918 Spanish flu. She also lived long enough to have 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and 120 great-great-grandchildren.

“Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing real life experience of over 100 years,” said Patterson-Powe. “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.”

Having called Charlotte home for more than 60 years in 2020, Mayor Vi Lyles issued a proclamation to recognize Aug. 15, her birthday, as “Mother Hester Ford Day.

Funeral arrangements for the supercentenarian have not yet been announced.

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