Woman considered world's oldest dies in at 114

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 5:58 PM

GUSTAVIA, St. Barts -- Eugenie Blanchard, a nun who was considered the world's oldest person, died in the French Caribbean island of St. Barts on Thursday. She was 114.

Blanchard, who friends called "Sweets" because of her kindness, died at Bruyn Hospital, where she had lived in the geriatric ward since 1980, said hospital director Pierre Nuty.

Her death leaves Eunice G. Sanborn of Jacksonville, Texas, as the world's oldest person, according to two organizations that monitor that status.

Blanchard's cousin Armelle Blanchard told The Associated Press that while her relative could no longer talk, she had seemed to be in relatively good health.

"When you talked to her, she would smile," the cousin said. "We don't know if she understood us."

Blanchard was born on St. Barts on Feb. 16, 1896, and lived much of her life in a convent in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao before returning home in the 1950s. She was the last survivor of a family of 13 brothers and sisters.

Blanchard worked hard from an early age, her cousin recalled.

"At that time, life was very hard in St. Barts," she said. "She tended the garden and took care of the animals."

Blanchard arrived at Curacao's Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Roosendaal in May 1923 and stayed until August 1955, said Sister Marietta, a nun in Curacao who met Blanchard just before she returned to St. Barts.

Blanchard, who was known as Sister Cyria, likely worked in the kitchen, she told the AP.

"I always saw her there. She was a very affectionate person," Sister Marietta said.

After returning from Curacao, Blanchard lived in a quaint house in the Merlette district with a cat as her only companion, her cousin said.

France's Junior Minister for Senior Citizens, Nora Berra, said Blanchard devoted her life to God and to others.

"Eugenie Blanchard, who dedicated herself to help those who are most fragile, was a lovely and generous example of France," Berra said in a statement.

Blanchard became the world's oldest person after Kama Chinen of Japan died a week before her 115th birthday, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks people of extremely old age. Guinness Records also recognized Blanchard as the world's oldest person.

Both the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group and London-based Guinness Records say Sanborn is now believed to be the oldest living person. She was born July 20, 1896, in Louisiana. Blanchard's birth date was Feb. 16, 1896.

Dr. L. Stephen Coles of Gerontology Research told the AP he spoke to Sanborn's family Thursday and "she's doing well."

Sanborn told the Tyler Morning Telegraph in an April interview that she loves everything about her life and has "no complaints."

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