Hester Ford, a woman who was recognised as the oldest living American, passed away peacefully in her home in North Carolina. The 116-year-old woman grew up picking cotton, got married at 14 and became the oldest living American who left behind 120 great-great-grandchildren.
"She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much-needed love, support and understanding to us all," said her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, in a statement emailed to news outlets.
Ford was born in 1904 in Lancaster, South Carolina to Peter and Frances McCardell, where she grew up working on a farm planting and picking cotton and ploughing the fields. According to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks "supercentenarians", Ford was 115 years old and 245 days when she passed.
At the age of 14, she married John Ford and they had 12 children, eight girls and four boys, 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren, according to Huff Post.
"It is overwhelming, yet an awakening experience to realize my grandmother wasn't just an ordinary woman, she was E-X-T-R-A-ordinary," Patterson-Powe told CNN in an email.
"She never 'fit into a one size fit all box' as she was a master inventor and innovator -- a trailblazer setting her own trends within the community and her home," she said.
Her family went on to say that in her final years her routine involved a breakfast that always included half a banana, a trip outside for fresh air, weather permitting, and sitting in her recliner looking at family albums, doing puzzles and listening to gospel music.
"I just live right, all I know," she said when asked about the secret to her longevity.
According to the Gerontology Research Group, with Ford's passing Thelma Sutcliffe of Nebraska, born in 1906, is now the oldest living American however, the world's oldest person is Kane Tanaka of Japan at 118 years old, it says.
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