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Article posted Mar 08 2010, 9:03 PM Category: Health Source: Associated Press Print

Oldest person in US dies in NH at age 114


WESTMORELAND, N.H. Mary Josephine Ray, the New Hampshire woman who was certified as the oldest person living in the United States, has died at age 114 years, 294 days.

She died Sunday at a nursing home in Westmoreland but was active until about two weeks before her death, her granddaughter Katherine Ray said.

"She just enjoyed life. She never thought of dying at all," Katherine Ray said. "She was planning for her birthday party."

Even with her recent decline, Ray managed an interview with a reporter last week, her granddaughter said.

Ray was the oldest person in the United States and the second-oldest in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She was also recorded as the oldest person ever to live in New Hampshire.

The oldest living American is now Neva Morris, of Ames, Iowa, at age 114 years, 216 days. The oldest person in the world is Japan's Kama Chinen at age 114 years, 301 days.

Ray was born May 17, 1895, in Bloomfield, Prince Edward Island, Canada. She moved to the United States at age 3.

She lived for 60 years in Anson, Maine. She lived in Florida, Massachusetts and elsewhere in New Hampshire before she moved to Westmoreland in 2002 to be near her children.

Ray's husband, Walter, died in 1967. Survivors include two sons, eight grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

Morris, the Iowa woman now believed to be the oldest U.S. resident, lives at a care center. Only one of her four children, a son in Sioux City, is still alive.

"She has some hearing deficiencies and a visual deficiency, but mentally she is quite alert and will respond when she feels like it and isn't too tired," said her 90-year-old son-in-law Tom Wickersham, who lives the same care center.

Wickersham said he visits his mother-in-law who plays bingo and enjoys singing "You Are My Sunshine" nearly every day.

"You can put aside any of those typical mother-in-law jokes," Wickersham said. "When I visit her, I spend probably at least a half an hour with her on a daily basis that involves as much conversation as you'd share, the usual things, the weather."

___

Associated Press writer Nigel Duara in Iowa City contributed to this report.





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