SHELBYVILLE, Ind. - Edna Parker, who once taught in a two-room schoolhouse and became the world's oldest person more than a year ago, has died at age 115.
World's oldest person dies at age 115
UCLA gerontologist Dr. Stephen Coles said Parker's great nephew notified him that Parker passed away Wednesday at a nursing home in Shelbyville. She was 115 years, 120 days old.
Parker was born April 20, 1893 in central Indiana's Morgan County and had been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest person since the Aug. 14, 2007, death in Japan of Yone Minagawa, who was four months her senior.
Coles maintains list of world's oldest people and said Parker was the 14th oldest validated supercentenarian in history. Maria de Jesus of Portugal, who was born Sept. 10, 1893, is now the world's oldest living person, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Parker had been a widow since her husband, Earl, died in 1938 of a heart attack. She lived alone in their farmhouse until age 100, when she moved into a son's home and later to the Shelbyville nursing home.
Although she never drank alcohol or tried tobacco and led an active life, Parker didn't offer tips for living a long life. Her only advice to those who gathered for a celebration when she became the oldest person was: "More education."
Her two sisters also lived long lives -- Georgia was 99 when she died and Opal was 88 -- but she outlived her two sons, Clifford and Earl Jr. She also had five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren.
"We don't know why she's lived so long," Don Parker said days before his grandmother's 115th birthday this year. "But she's never been a worrier and she's always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it."
Parker taught in a two-room school in the Shelby County town of Smithland for several years until she wed her childhood sweetheart and next-door neighbor, Earl Parker, in 1911. The same year, she graduated from Franklin College with a teaching certificate.
But as was the tradition of that era, her teaching career ended with her marriage. Parker traded the schoolhouse for life as a farmer's wife, preparing meals for as many as a dozen men who worked on her husband's farm.
Parker recalled last year that her chores included helping maintain the family's barn and butchering chickens for Sunday post-church supper. She noted with pride that she and her husband were one of the first owners of an automobile in their rural area.
A few months after moving into her son Clifford's home, Parker came close to death. One winter night, Clifford and his wife returned home from a high school basketball game to find her missing. Don, their son, says he discovered his grandmother in the snowy darkness near the farm's apple orchard. He scooped up her rigid body and rushed back to the house.
"She was stiff as a 2-by-4. We really thought that was the end of her," he said.
But Parker recovered fully, suffering only frostbitten fingertips.
Coincidentally, Parker lived in the same nursing home, Heritage House Convalescent Center, as 7-foot-7 Sandy Allen, whom Guinness recognized as the world's tallest woman until her death in August.
Edna Parker (20 April 1893 - 26 November 2008)
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