World's oldest person dies at 116: Gertrude Weaver had the title for 5 days

The world's oldest person, 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas, dies just days after assuming the title

On Wednesday, Gertrude Weaver was unofficially named the world's oldest person, and she celebrated by having her nails painted pink and answering reporters' questions.

On Monday, just days later, Weaver died at the age of 116 in Camden, Ark.

Weaver died about 10 a.m. Monday from complications of pneumonia, according to Kathy Langley, an administrator at Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation, where Weaver lived.

"It was absolutely unexpected; it's quite a shock to all of us," Langley told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview. "We're very saddened by her loss, and she will be greatly missed."

Weaver became known as the world's oldest verified person after the death of a 117-year-old Japanese woman, Misao Okawa, last week. Guinness World Records had not yet officially named Weaver the world's oldest person, but will probably grant her the title posthumously, said Robert Young, who tracks supercentenarians, or people over the age of 110, for the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group.

She was also, according to the GRG database, the seventh-oldest person ever; the oldest person ever was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died at the age of 122 years and 164 days.

"I thank God for that, I'm still alive," Weaver told KARK-TV last week. "I've been here long. ... How do I look?" she said, with a laugh.

Young said the average reign for the world's oldest person is about a year. This is not the first time someone has had such a short tenure. In 2007, Emma Tillman of Connecticut died just four days after becoming the world's oldest person.

According to official records, Weaver was born July 4, 1898, in Texarkana, Ark.; she would have turned 117 on the Fourth of July, and had said she wanted President Obama to attend her birthday party this year.

The daughter of Arkansas sharecroppers, Weaver married in 1915 and was a homemaker and domestic worker. She moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s and lived in California for years before returning to Arkansas in the 1970s, her family said. Her husband, with whom she had four children, died in 1969.

Up until last year, her family said, she had enjoyed "wheelchair dances" at the senior home and got regular manicures. Her last surviving son, Joe, would attend church services with her each Sunday; he turns 94 on Tuesday.

The world's oldest person is now believed to be 115-year-old Jeralean Talley, who lives with her 77-year-old daughter, Thelma Holloway, in Inkster, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. According to a 2013 resolution by the Michigan state Senate, Talley was born in Montrose, Ga., and moved to Detroit in 1935. She married her husband, Alfred Talley, in 1936, and had one child.

Talley remained an "avid bowler" until she was 104, the resolution says, and took a fishing trip each May.

She is still active, great-great-granddaughter Aerial Holloway told The Times by phone, and is "very outspoken and very religious." She is still eating healthfully, and potato salad is one of her favorite foods, Holloway said.

Young said researchers used 1900 census records, which put Talley's birth date in May 1899, as well as a family tree recorded in a Bible, to verify her age. She was previously thought to be the oldest living American, until Weaver's age was verified last year.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


5:11 p.m.: The story was updated with additional information from the family of Jeralean Talley.

The story was originally published at 4:21 p.m.