Besse Cooper of Monroe, Georgia — a woman old enough to have fought for women's suffrage and, indeed, the world's oldest person — died at the age of 116 Tuesday after having "a big old breakfast" and getting "her hair fixed," according to her son.
"She lived in three centuries. Don't many people do that," points out her observant son Sidney, no spring chicken himself at 77 years old. As a 24-year-old schoolteacher, Cooper registered women to vote. After the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, she voted in every election except two. Her secret for long life? "I mind my own business. And I don't eat junk food."
Though the Japanese have a competitive roster of supercentenarians, the United States can still lay claim to having the world's oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group. Dina Manfredini, 115 years old, was born in Italy in 1897. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1920, settling in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband Ricardo. He died nearly a half century ago, but Dina has gone on living in Des Moines ever since, regularly attending Catholic mass. "Her hearing is bad but she responds to Italian and I am able to speak some Italian to her," says her priest, Father Tom DeCarlo.