Edie Ceccarelli, oldest person in US, dies 2 weeks after 116th birthday

WILLITS, Calif. — Edith “Edie” Ceccarelli, the oldest living documented person in the United States and the second oldest in the world, died Thursday. She was 116.

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Ceccarelli died 15 days after she celebrated her 116th birthday at Holy Spirit Residential Care Home in Willits, California, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported. She was born on Feb. 5, 1908, in Willits, where she lived most of her life. She lived 116 years, 17 days.

Evelyn Persico of Willits, Ceccarelli’s cousin by marriage, told the newspaper that the supercentenarian ate lightly on Thursday “and dozed.” A caretaker who checked on Ceccarelli later in the afternoon noticed that her heart had stopped, the Press Democrat reported.

The world’s oldest person, Maria Branyas Morera, was born in San Francisco on March 4, 1907, but currently lives in Olot, Spain, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She was 116 years, 357 days old on Saturday, according to the Press Democrat.

According to the group, the oldest living documented person in the U.S. is now Elizabeth Francis, who currently lives in Houston. Francis, at 114 years old, was born on July 25, 1909, in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. That makes her the fifth oldest person in the world.

Francis’ sister, Bertha Johnson, died in 2011 at age 106, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

Following the death of 115-year-old Bessie Hendricks on Jan. 3, 2023, in Lake City, Iowa, Ceccarelli became the oldest validated living person in the United States.

She graduated in 1927 from Willits Union High School and married Elmer “Brick” Keenan in Ukiah, California on Nov. 17, 1933, the Press Democrat reported.

Brick Keenan was 74 when he died in 1984, according to the newspaper.

Ceccarelli, who enjoyed dancing, met her second husband, Charles Ceccarelli at a dance at the Ukiah Senior Center, the Press Democrat reported. They were married in 1986 and spent a good deal of time on dance floors until Charles died in 1990.

The newest “oldest person,” Francis, along with her siblings, were sent to different homes after their mother died, KHOU-TV reported. Francis went to Houston, where she was raised by her aunt, according to the television station.

Francis credits her longevity to her faith, no smoking and an occasional glass of wine, KHOU reported. She wore a tiara at her birthday party in July and joked that eating whatever she wants is also her secret to a long life, according to the television station.

“Ms. Elizabeth Francis is admired around the world, both for her longevity and her approach to life,” LongeviQuest Chief Executive Ben Meyers told KHOU. “Reaching this milestone was never an aspiration for her, merely a byproduct of how she lived her life every day, doing right by her loved ones and by God. We can all learn from her example.”

When asked for life advice, Elizabeth said don’t be afraid to speak up.

“If the Good Lord gave it to you, use it! Speak your mind, don’t hold your tongue!”