Goodbye to an American Said to Be the Nation's Oldest

Iowa's Bessie Laurena Hendricks has died at age 115
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2023 10:45 AM CST
Goodbye to an American Said to Be the Nation's Oldest
This image made from video, provided by KCCI in Des Moines, Iowa, shows Bessie Laurena Hendricks, center, celebrating her 115th birthday in November.   (KCCI 8 News via AP)

Bessie Laurena Hendricks was born in Iowa, and she died in Iowa, with more than a century sandwiched in between those two dates. A local funeral home delivers the news that the Lake City resident—thought to be the oldest person in the United States, per the Gerontology Research Group—died Tuesday at her senior living facility, at the age of 115, reports CBS News. She'd just celebrated her final birthday in early November. The New York Post notes that she was also believed to be the fourth-oldest person in the world.

Born on Nov. 7, 1907, in the same town where she died, Hendricks was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in her native Calhoun County and the mother of five children, two of whom predeceased her, reports the Des Moines Register. When she turned 110, Hendricks attributed her longevity to "hard work," per the Fort Dodge Messenger. A son also said her love of sweets helped her get by, while a care center staffer noted Hendricks' "strong will and love of family keep Bessie going."

The Post and CBS note all that Hendricks saw and lived through in her many decades on Earth, including both the 1918 flu pandemic and the current COVID one, the sinking of the Titanic, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the administrations of 21 US presidents. She was just one month away from celebrating her 65th anniversary with her husband, Paul Hendricks, when he died in May 1995. Now said to be the oldest person in the US after Hendricks' death: California's Edie Ceccarelli, who's 114. She turns 115 on Feb. 5. (More oldest woman stories.)

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