Besse Cooper was given the honor of being the world’s oldest person last year by the Guinness Book of World Records, saying the secret to her longevity was, “I mind my own business. And I don’t eat junk food.”
The feisty Mrs. Cooper was born on August 26th, 1896 and lived through many of the historical events most of us have to learn about through books or television. She was a suffragette in the days before women had the right to vote and campaigned in her Georgia town to get women’s voices heard. From then on, she only missed voting in two elections up until the day she died.
Described by her children as a fiercely bright woman who became a schoolteacher after graduating from East Tennessee State University. She married her husband, Luther, in 1924 and was widowed in 1963; she herself enjoyed excellent health right up until this week, when she began having difficulty breathing at the elder care facility she lived in. She passed away on Tuesday, December 4th.
Although her eyesight had begun to fail her a bit, Cooper loved to read and was known to be every bit as sharp as someone half her age. Robert Young, a senior consultant for Guinness, said he was surprised by her mental state when he met her five years ago. He, too, was touched by meeting the woman who had lived through so much.
‘‘It’s a sad day for me,’’ he said.
Though the distinction of being the world’s oldest person has now been passed on to 115-year-old Dina Manfredini–of Johnston, Iowa–Besse Cooper’s legacy will live on, through the people who had the honor of meeting her and through the many generations of family she saw born after her.