2009-01-14 / Health

Georgia women make history

By ANNA FERGUSON The Brunswick News

Gertrude Baines claims the title of the oldest living woman Gertrude Baines claims the title of the oldest living woman Beatrice Farve of Brunswick has again made history. At 113 years old, the Brunswick resident is now the second oldest person in the world.

Only one year separates her from the oldest.

Two days into the new year, on Jan. 2, 115-year-old Maria de Jesus, a Portuguese woman who had held the No. 1 spot for about two and a half months, died.

Gertrude Baines, born April 6, 1894, now claims the top title. Farve was born April 17, 1895.

Baines, who resides in Los Angeles, and Farve have more in common than being April babies and being extremely elderly. Both are Georgia natives.

"It's actually very interesting," said Robert Young, a senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records. "These two women are the oldest people in the world, and they are from the same place and of the same descent." (Both are black.)

On average, the top-ranking person stays in the spot for about nine months, Roberts said.

When news of the new ranking hit home, Mama Bea, as she is more commonly known, and her family didn't know what to make of it.

"We're very proud," said Joan Farve, 79, the second youngest of Mama Bea's five children. "It's beyond me. I just don't know what to say about it. Who would have thought."

In April, Mama Bea observed her 113th birthday with a highly attended afternoon celebration at her home on Stonewall Street. The house was abuzz with excitement. Family members and friends - even Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson - gathered to ring in the historic moment.

During the celebration, Mama Bea's four daughters and son praised their mother for her spunk and spirit, noting that despite her age and small stature - a mere 81 pounds and standing 4 feet, 7 inches tall - she has never let the years gone by weigh her down.

An avid gardener, Mama Bea loves the outdoors and has a true knack for growing roses, said Joan Farve.

"Maybe all that time outside is her secret," Joan Farve said. "She is a very private person and very stubborn, but she is also very loving. She raised us five kids, and no one turned out too bad."

Mama Bea is apt to see the brighter side of life and believes in remaining active, independent and optimistic, said Dennis Farve, 78, Mama Bea's youngest child and only son.

Proving that point, her children point to Mama Bea's driving record. She could be seen behind the wheel of her car until she was 106 years old and only stopped driving because her children took her license away.

Mama Bea's oldest child, Lottie Albury, 85, said her mother lives by a simple life philosophy, one that is credited with keeping her alive so long: "Work hard and eat breakfast," Albury said during the party. "That's all there is to it."

In recent weeks, Mama Bea has been doing well, Joan Farve said. She is recovering from a bout with a cold and seems to be in good health.

"She's been sleeping more than normal," Joan Farve said. "But I guess after all these years, it's just what you do. It seems deserved to me."

Timeline

Some events in United States history that have occurred during Beatrice Farve's life:

* 1897: William McKinley inaugurated as 25th president.

* 1898: Spanish-American War begins and ends.

* 1906: San Francisco earthquake.

* 1914-18: World War I.

* 1915: Long distance telephone service between New York City and San Francisco demonstrated.

* 1919: Women gain right to vote.

* 1927: Charles Lindbergh makes first solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.

* 1929: Stock market crash precipitates Great Depression.

* 1939-45: World War II.

* 1950-53: Korean Conflict.

* 1954: Public school segregation declared unconstitutional.

* 1958: Explorer I, first U.S. satellite, launched.

* 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis.

* 1963: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers "I Have a Dream" speech; President John F. Kennedy assassinated.

* 1964: Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin Resolution expanding U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

* 1969: Neil Armstrong is first human to talk on moon.

* 1972: President Richard Nixon visits communist China.

* 1974: Nixon resigns.

* 1977: Jimmy Carter inaugurated as 39th president.

* 1981: Sandra Day O'Connor sworn in as first female justice of Supreme Court.

* 1986: Space shuttle Challenger explodes.

* 1991: First Gulf War; breakup of Soviet Union.

* 1995: Bombing of federal office building in Oklahoma City kills 168 people.

* 1998: House impeaches President Bill Clinton (Senate acquits him in 1999).

* 2001: Terrorist fly commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York City.

* 2003: Second Gulf War begins.

* 2005: Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans and Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast.

* 2008: Barack Obama elected as 44th president and first black to win office.

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