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‘Her light shined’: Charlotte’s Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 116 years old

Hester Ford, born in 1904, moved to Charlotte in the 1950s.
Hester Ford, born in 1904, moved to Charlotte in the 1950s.(wbtv)
Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 4:45 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Hester Ford, born in 1904, moved to Charlotte in the 1950s.

Ford has seen a lot in her lifetime, more than anyone in the United States.

She had been known as the oldest living American at 116 years old.

Ford died Saturday, according to her great-granddaughter.

“Her light shined beyond her local area and she lived beyond a century with memories containing real-life experience of over 100 years,” her great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe said. “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. She has been celebrated all over the world by local governments, community leaders, social media, foreign dignities and Presidents as a cherished jewel of society for holding the honor of being the oldest living person in America.”

Patterson-Powe said Ms. Ford died peacefully at her home in Charlotte surrounded by family.

Hester Ford, oldest living American, celebrates 116th birthday in Charlotte

Ford was born in Lancaster, South Carolina.

She grew up working on a farm where she not only planted and picked cotton, but plowed the field and cut wood.

She was married to John Ford, a steelworker, at the age of 15 and they later moved to Charlotte in 1953. She was married to John for 45 years when he died in 1963.

Ford worked for more than 20 years as a nanny for two families in Myers Park and has been living in the same house in the Dalebrook neighborhood of Charlotte for more than 59 years.

She is a longtime member of Macedonia Baptist Church where prior to the coronavirus pandemic, she attended each first Sunday of every month for communion.

Ford has lived through two global pandemics, the 1918 influenza pandemic and currently the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the matriarch of a large family, Ford has 12 children, 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren and approximately 120 great-great-grandchildren.

“Although she has passed, her legacy and memory will continue to live on through her family and everyone she has touched to make the world a better place for generations to come,” Patterson-Powe said.

As of July 30, she was the oldest person on record living in the United States, based on data compiled by the Gerontology Research Group.

Ford celebrated her 115th birthday at her home with family and friends.

However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the family hosted a drive-by party,

“We are honored and we just thank God for the opportunity to celebrate her,” said Mary Hill, one of Hester Ford’s 68 grandchildren. “She just continues to be a blessing to us. And she tells us all the time. You are here to be a blessing to someone else.”

Ford tied the age of Edna Parker to enter the top ten oldest Americans of all-time. She is also one of the 50 longest-lived validated people in history, according to gerontology.

The next oldest living person is Thelma Sutcliffe, from Nebraska, who is 114 years and 198 days old.

At 111 years old, Ford was able to recite the 23rd Psalm from the Bible.

Last year, county commissioners declared September 1 as Hester Ford day in Mecklenburg County.

“The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners honors the life and legacy of Ms. Hester Ford and hereby proclaim Tuesday, September 1, 2020 as ‘Mother Hester McCardell Ford Day,’” the official proclamation read.

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