“Life isn’t about how you survived the storm. It’s about how you learned how to dance in the rain.”
Hester McCardell Ford, believed to be the oldest living person in the United States and among the oldest human beings on the planet, lived a life that not only survived several storms, tragedies and pain, but lived to see milestones, triumphs, and history changed. Her peaceful soul died in her home in Charlotte on Saturday, according to her family. She was at least 115, but possibly as old as 116.
The Charlotte Observer writes that she lived more than twice as long as her late husband — John Ford, who died at age 57 in 1963 — and was the matriarch of an enormous family: 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren.
“She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much-needed love, support and understanding to us all,” said her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, in a statement emailed to the Observer on Saturday. “She was the seed that sprouted leaves and branches which is now our family. God saw fit to make her the matriarch of your family and blessed us to be her caretakers and recipients of her legacy.”
According to her family, U.S. Census Bureau documents indicate she was born in 1905, but then another set of Census Bureau documents say she was born in 1904. Either way — whether Ford was 115 or 116 — before her death she was the oldest person on record living in the United States, based on data compiled by the Gerontology Research Group.
Ford was born in Lancaster, South Carolina, to Peter and Frances McCardell. She went on to marry John Ford and had 12 children — eight girls and four boys.
“It is overwhelming, yet an awakening experience to realize my grandmother wasn’t just an ordinary woman, she was E-X-T-R-A-ordinary,” Patterson-Powe told CNN in an email.
“She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’ as she was a master inventor and innovator — a trailblazer setting her own trends within the community and her home,” Patterson-Powe continued.”She never complained, never showed defeat or entertained a pity-party.”
“Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing real life experience of over 100 years,” she went on to say. “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.”
Last Aug. 15, the Charlotte great-great-grandmother celebrated her birthday during a global pandemic — the second of her lifetime. She also lived through the influenza pandemic in 1918, when she was 13/14.
Imagine being able to live through two pandemics and not look like or sound like you’ve been through anything that tough–that’s what was able to do.
When asked during a phone interview with the Observer last summer what the secret to her longevity was, Ford replied quickly and confidently: “I just live right, all I know.”
What does “living right” look like for us nowadays? Well, we talked with a few centenarians (people who lived to be over 100) and found three common traits:
1. Regular physical activity.
The family of Ford said they tried to keep her pretty active. They did little exercises like