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OK, so Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Mich., who was born on May 23, 1899, isn’t quite the oldest person in the world — that distinction belongs to Jiromon Kimura, a Japanese man who turned 116 in April.

Jeralean Talley (center) at her 113th birthday celebration in May 2012.

Jeralean Talley (center) at her 113th birthday celebration in May 2012.

That said, the oldest living American has been around for a long, long time.

When Talley was born in Montrose, Ga., William McKinley was President, Henry Ford was just getting started as an automobile maker, music was played on phonographs with big horns instead of speakers, and people paid for things with silver dollars. The Internet didn’t exist, but everyone was pretty excited about Guglielmo Marconi’s recently invented wireless telegraph. Women couldn’t yet vote, and African Americans were still subject to “Jim Crow” laws that legalized racial discrimination. The U.S. flag had only 45 stars. Quite clearly, Talley has lived through some gigantic changes and historic events in her 114 years.

But enough about that. Here are some fascinating facts about Jeralean Talley, brought to you on her 114th birthday:

  • For an American, the odds of reaching Talley’s age are about one in five million.
  • She has good genes. Several of her 11 siblings lived well into their 90s, according to a recent USA Today article on her.
  • She’s always led an active life. As a child, she worked long hours picking cotton and peanuts, and digging sweet potatoes, and still exercises by waving her arms and kicking her feet.
  • She bowled until the age of 104, and once rolled a 200 game.
  • After growing up in an era in which African Americans often were denied the right to vote, she told an interviewer in 2009 that she was thrilled to be able to cast a ballot for Barack Obama for President.
  • She still goes fishing a couple of times every year with a younger friend she met at church.
  • She was married for 52 years to her husband Alfred, who died in 1988 at the age of 95.
  • Her favorite foods are potato salad, honey buns, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and Wendy’s chili.
  • According to the Detroit Free Press, she drinks black coffee with sugar every morning.
  • When asked in an interview about the secret of her longevity, she lifted her arm and pointed to the sky. “Don’t ask me, ask him,” she said. “That’s in the Lord’s hands.”
  • She plans to celebrate her birthday by eating out with friends from her church.
  • Her motto is, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

 

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Kinloch

 

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