Lifestyle & Belief

Besse Cooper, world's oldest person, dead at 116


Besse Cooper was born in 1896 in northern Tennessee, the same year as comedian George Burns and writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Michel Porro

Besse Cooper, our world's oldest person, died in a Monroe, Georgia nursing home Wednesday, aged 116. She leaves behind four children, 11 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

"With her hair fixed it looked like she was ready to go," Cooper's son told the Associated Press.

Besse Cooper married Luther Cooper in 1924. He died in 1963. She never remarried.

The great, great grandmother and former schoolteacher lived through 21 presidencies, from Grover Cleveland to President Obama's second term. CNN points out she voted in every presidential election, except two - at least, after the 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.

Her often quoted secret to longevity: "I mind my own business...and I don't eat junk food." 

In January 2011, Guinness World Records certified Cooper humankind's eldest, though there were 48 days when Brazilian Maria Gomes Valentin was discovered to be 48 days older. Valentin passed June 21.

The world's oldest title now passes to a young woman from Johnston, Iowa, 115-year-old Dina Manfredini.