Jeanne Calment, believed to be the world's oldest person, waves in this 1995 photo at the bottom of this page.
Born Feb. 21, 1875, she left us on Aug 4 1997 age 122 years in a nursing home in Arles, France.
By Jocelyn Noveck / Associated Press PARIS -
Jeanne Calment, who took up fencing lessons at age 85 and credited an occasional glass of Port wine and a diet rich in olive oil for making her the world's oldest person, died, Aug 4 1997, at age 122. Though blind, nearly deaf and in a wheelchair, Calment remained spirited and mentally sharp until the end. That was clear to those who attended her 121st birthday in February 1996, when she released her CD, "Time's Mistress," which featured her reminiscing to a score of rap and other tunes.
Officials in the southern city of Arles gave no precise cause of death. Calment, who was 14 when the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, died at a retirement home where she had spent the past 12 years. "She was the living memory of our city," said Michel Vauzelle, the deputy mayor of Arles. "Her birthdays were a sort of family holiday, where all the people of Arles gathered around their big sister." For Calment, birthdays were a chance to indulge. She said in February that she had impatiently awaited her birthday so she could "eat some chocolate and drink a little sweet wine." Calment's doctor persuaded her to give up sweets two years ago.
In later years, Calment lived mostly off the income from her apartment, which she sold cheaply more than 30 years ago to a lawyer. He had agreed to make monthly payments on it in exchange for taking possession of the apartment when she died, but never got to do so. He died more than a year ago at age 77; his family was required to keep making the payments.
Calment had no direct descendants, having survived her husband, her daughter and her grandson. Born Feb. 21, 1875, Calment became Arles' greatest attraction since the artist Vincent Van Gogh, who spent a year there in 1888. She met him that year when he came to her uncle's shop to buy paints, and later remembered him as "dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable." The Guinness Book of World Records had listed Calment as the oldest living person whose birth date could be authenticated by reliable records.
Calment gave up cigarettes in 1995, but her doctor said her abstinence was due to pride rather than health -- she was too blind to light up herself, and hated asking someone to do it for her. She was still riding a bike at 100. At 121, Calment gave a hint as to how she stayed sharp. "I dream, I think, I go over my life," she said, "I never get bored."
She took up fencing at 85, and still rode a bicycle at 100. She liked her port wine, her olive oil, her chocolate and her cigarettes, and she released a rap CD at 121.
She lived through France's Third and Fourth Republics, and into its Fifth. She was 14 when the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889.
. "I dream, I think, I go over my life," she said, "I never get bored."