Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2001

Arkansas resident turns 119 next month

July 29, 2001

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— When Mary Thompson was 112, she switched nursing homes to be near a gentleman friend. Next month, the whiskey-sipping woman turns 119.

Thompson, the daughter of former slaves, would be recognized as the world's oldest living person if she only had a birth certificate. Social Security records show that she was born on Aug. 2, 1882, in Shelby, Miss.

"We'll present her roses," said Jennie Sheperd, social director of the Crestpark Nursing Home, where Thompson has lived since 1995. "We'll get her a corsage, balloons and have a big cake made, the works."

Nurse Jimmy Brown already gives Thompson money, which Thompson saves in her black leather purse to buy Juicy Fruit gum which wasn't invented until she was age 11 and pints of top-shelf Crown Royal whiskey.

"Usually I give her a dollar every day I work," Brown said. "She looks forward to that. She saves it and someone goes out to get her the whiskey."

The Guinness Book of World Records lists Maud Farris-Luse, 114, of Michigan as the oldest woman in the world with documentation. A French woman, Jeanne Louise Calment, held the record before she died at 122 in 1997.

It is believed that Thompson, who was born Mary Johnson, lost her birth certificate in a fire. Historians in Arkansas and Mississippi could not find Thompson on census rolls from the late 1800s but acknowledge records for blacks in that period are sketchy.

The office of Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., whose district includes DeWitt, said the Social Security Administration confirmed Thompson's birth date. "That's the birth date on file with them. They probably saw some sort of paperwork along the way," Berry spokesman Warwick Sabin said.

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