World's oldest person dies at 122
August 4, 1997
Web posted at: 9:47 a.m. EDT (1347 GMT)
ARLES, France (CNN) -- Jeanne Calment, believed to be the world's oldest person, died Monday at age 122, according to
her retirement home. No precise cause of death was given for
Calment, who died in the retirement home where she spent the
last 12 years of her life.
According to her birth certificate, Calment was born on
February 21, 1875, about 10 years after U.S. President
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. She entered the Guinness
Book of Records in 1993 as the oldest living person whose
birthdate could be authenticated by reliable records.
Over the years, she became the biggest attraction in Arles
since Vincent Van Gogh's visit to the town in 1888. She met
Van Gogh as a girl, when the artist came to shop at her
father's art supplies store, and remembered him later as
"dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable."
She outlived her husband, Fernand Calment, who died in 1942,
four years before their 50th wedding anniversary. She also
outlived her only child, a daughter who died in 1934, and her
only grandson, a doctor who died in 1963.
She also outlived a lawyer who hoped to take possession of
her apartment. She lived mostly off the income from the
apartment, which she sold cheaply more than 30 years ago to
Andre-Francois Raffray with the understanding that he would
take possession of it when she died.
He died more than a year ago at age 77 after paying $184,000,
double the apartment's market value, for the property; his
family was required to keep making the payments.
Though blind, nearly deaf and in a wheelchair, Calment
remained spirited and mentally sharp until the end.
That was clear to those who attended her 121st birthday, when
she released her CD, "Time's Mistress," which featured her
reminiscing to a score of rap and other tunes.
At 85, she took up fencing lessons. At 100, she was still
riding a bicycle.
And she when she finally gave up smoking two years ago, her
doctor said she quit not for health reasons, but because she
could no longer see well enough to light her cigarettes, and
didn't want to ask someone to do it for her.
Calment credited her longevity to Port wine, a diet rich in
olive oil, and her sense of humor. "I will die laughing," she
Reuters contributed to this report.
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