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Charlotte's Hester Ford, Who Was Oldest American, Has Died

hester_ford.jpg
Courtesy Angela Christoforos
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Hester Ford, center, is seen surrounded by family members in 2020.

Hester Ford, a Charlotte woman believed to the oldest American, died Saturday, as first reported by QCity Metro. She was at least 115, though some family members say she was 116.

“She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much needed love, support and understanding to us all," Ford's great-grandaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe said in a statement posted to Facebook. "... Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing real life experience of over 100 years. She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country."

While there wasn't consensus on Ford's actual age, the Gerontology Research Group designated her the oldest living American. That group said she was 115, but her granddaughter Mary Hill told WFAE last year that Ford was 116.

When Ford celebrated her birthday in August, she had at least 12 children, 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren, and about 120 great-great grandchildren. She had lived in Charlotte's Dalebrook community for more than 60 years.

Ford was born in Lancaster, South Carolina, and had been in Charlotte since 1953, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She married John Ford at age 14, and gave birth to the first of her 12 children at age 15.

Her husband died in 1963 at age 57, three years after the couple moved to Charlotte. Hester Ford then lived in the home on her own, without assistance, until the age of 108, when she bruised ribs in a bathtub fall and her family members insisted on moving in to help. She lived in the home with family until her death.

Hill told WFAE last year that she believed her grandmother's longevity could be attributed to her devotion to Christianity.

"Treating people the way you want to be treated," Hill said, "and always going the extra mile."

In her final years, her family said her routine involved a breakfast that always included half a banana, a trip outside for fresh air, weather permitting, and sitting in her recliner looking at family albums, doing puzzles and listening to gospel music.

“I just live right, all I know," she said when asked about the secret to her longevity.

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