When asked about the secret to her longevity, she said, "I don't know. I just live right, all I know."
The oldest living American just turned a whopping 116-years-old over the weekend and her grandkids made sure she got to celebrate the incredible milestone in style. Hester Ford from Charlotte, North Carolina, was treated to a special drive-thru parade on Saturday afternoon which was attended by many of her friends and family who showed up to honor the centenarian. "We are doing a re-do of 115 and celebrating 116 coming into," Ford's granddaughter Mary Hill told NBC-affiliate WCNC. "So we are excited about the cars coming back in and just acknowledging her and letting them know that we love her."
Some birthday! Hester Ford of Charlotte, the oldest U.S. woman, celebrated her 116th anniversary with family and friends Saturday. In 1904, the year she was born, women couldn't vote; airplane was invented a year earlier. TV was 23 years away from reality. 📸 @TCooperHullPics pic.twitter.com/LL16Su9SRY— The Charlotte Post (@thecharpost) August 16, 2020
When asked about the secret to her longevity, Ford told The Charlotte Observer, "I don't know. I just live right, all I know." According to the publication, in Ford's case, "living right" might be the half a banana she eats as part of her breakfast every morning or the fact that she never needed to be hospitalized for any reason before the age of 108. Or it might even have something to do with her house of 58 years which she has refused to leave because [Charlotte] is home. "Her church is 5 minutes away, she loves her church," explained Hill.
It’s not every day you get the pleasure of attending a celebration for someone turning 116 years of age. Here in #Charlotte, many had the honor of seeing Mother #HesterFord celebrate her special day.🎂❤️🥳#AmericasOldestLivingSenior #CarolinaTreasure #BornIn1904 pic.twitter.com/fl8scvVYXP— CarePatrol of Charlotte (@CarepatrolC) August 15, 2020
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has forced Ford to stay indoors and miss church given her advanced age. "She usually calls once a month the first Sunday of the month, but with the virus. She hasn't been able to go," said Hill. "So they always send CDs and the deacons come and give her communion." She explained that her grandmother has received an outpouring of love and support from not just her blood family but also her church family. "Just the love, the outpouring of love is so important," said Clayton Harris, another grandchild of Ford's. "Yes, you know, we thank God for that. Just being able to embrace that love."
Hill and Harris revealed that their grandmother is aware of everything happening in the world right now. In fact, she has prior experience living through a pandemic as she was alive during the 1918 Flu pandemic. "She said this kind of reminds her of that time back then," Hill said. "She just said she remembers that a lot of people were sick." Born on August 15, 1904, in Lancaster, South Carolina, Ford worked on a farm where she not only planted and picked cotton but also plowed the field and cut wood.
"We just thank God for the opportunity to celebrate her!"— Chandler Morgan (@Chandler_TV) August 15, 2020
This Charlotte woman is the oldest person in the United States!
Happy Birthday Hester Ford, who's now 116 years-old! @WBTV_News pic.twitter.com/GavEmH5WAk
She tied the knot with John Ford at the age of 14 and gave birth to the first of the couple's 12 children at age 15. The couple eventually sold the farm and moved to Charlotte in 1953 where Ford worked as a nanny for two families in Myers Park for over 20 years. Her husband passed away at the age of 57 in 1963, which means Ford has lived more than twice as long as her late husband. Aside from their children, the couple went on to welcome 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren, and approximately 120 great-great-grandchildren.
The oldest living American was born on this day in ~1904 in Lancaster County, South Carolina and turned 116 today. Happy Birthday to our mother, Miss Hester Ford 🎈 pic.twitter.com/LK3v3yW7Lj— ment nelson (@mentnelson) August 15, 2020
"It’s so important if you do have loved ones, no matter what their age, cherish them especially when they get older. and don’t forget to celebrate them," said Harris, explaining why the family considered it a blessed to have so many years with their grandmother. "Because life is so short." Although they are aware that this could be her last birthday with them, they're not counting her out yet as they’ve had the same thought many times before. "We just thank God for just keeping her here for us, because it gives us hope," said Hill. "We would never want her to be here if she was sick... We want her to have a great quality of life in her elder years. We don't want her to be sick or anything and trying to hold on. We're just a blessed family."
Happy birthday to the oldest person in the U.S. right now – Ms. Hester Ford! 🎉🎉🎉 She turns 115 or 116 (Reports say Census Bureau documents have different dates) –BUT—you’ve gotta hear what she does every morning…maybe there’s something to it! @ActionNewsJax @bridgetteANjax pic.twitter.com/FjZQol5vXs— Courtney Cole (@CourtneyANJax) August 16, 2020