Oldest person in US celebrates 116th birthday in California

WILLITS, Calif. — The world’s second oldest person blew out the candles again as she celebrated her 116th birthday on Monday.

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Edith “Edie” Recagno Keenan Ceccarelli is the oldest documented living person in the United States, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She was born on Feb. 5, 1908, in Willits, California, where she still lives, KTXL-TV reported.

Ceccarelli trails the world’s oldest person, Maria Branyas Morera, who was born in San Francisco on March 4, 1907, but currently lives in Olot, Spain, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

She was the first of seven children born to Italian immigrants Agostino and Maria Recagno. She outlived all of her siblings, according to KTXL.

Ceccarelli celebrated her birthday by watching her hometown drive by in a parade, KERO-TV reported.

While she currently has dementia, Ceccarelli previously told The Press Democrat that her longevity was from “drinking two fingers of wine a day and minding her own business.”

Her celebration on Monday was impacted somewhat by the rainy weather in Northern California, but Ceccarelli was enjoying the parade.

“I’m sure it put a damper on some people, but the amount of people that drove by, we had just an incredible turnout,” Evelyn Perisco told KTXL.

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.

Dan Buettner, who has written five books about longevity and happiness, said that Edie Ceccarelli has “won the genetic lottery,” KERO reported.

“You should be able to live about 95 years. That’s the capacity of the human machine. Edie, you know, she’s an outlier,” Buettner told Scripps News

Perisco said that Ceccarelli sometimes asks why she is still here, KTXL reported.

“She doesn’t understand why she survived life when those all around her have passed and I tell her, ‘Edie, God has a plan for you,” Perisco told the television station. “There’s a reason you’re here.’”