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Susannah Mushatt Jones, The World's Oldest Person, Has Died In New York

Susannah Mushatt Jones, who was believed to be the world's oldest person at 116, has died in New York. Known as Miss Susie to her friends and family, she reportedly had a penchant for bacon and lingerie.

The Gerontology Research Group (which verifies and tracks the most elderly people in the world) says that now, Emma Morano of Italy is the world's oldest living person — and, the last person alive to have been born before 1900.

Jones hailed from Alabama and "went on to work as a live-in housekeeper and childcare provider," according to the Guinness Book of World Records. She was the "daughter of sharecroppers and the granddaughter of slaves," according to Reuters.

In a 2014 interview with Time, she said she was the 3rd of 11 siblings and was married for a short time but never had children.

She never drank or smoked, Time reported, and slept more than 10 hours every night. But Jones added that she does love bacon – four strips daily, to be exact – along with eggs and grits for breakfast.

And according to her niece Selbra Mushatt, she had a soft spot for upscale lace lingerie, Time reported. "She would save her money and then go to Bloomingdale's. ...One time, when she had to get an EKG, the doctors and nurses were surprised to see her wearing that lingerie, and she said, 'Oh sure, you can never get too old to wear fancy stuff.'"

Jones also was involved in starting a "scholarship fund for young African American women," according to the BBC. Until 10 years ago, at the age of 106, she served as a "member of the tenant patrol of her nursing home."

Jones' death means that there's a new oldest living person. According to the Associated Press, Morano met the news "with a smile" after she woke from a nap to find assembled journalists, relatives and friends in Verbania, Italy.

Emma Morano, 116, sits in her apartment in Verbania, Italy.
Antonio Calanni / AP
Emma Morano, 116, sits in her apartment in Verbania, Italy.

The wire service reports that her doctor of 23 years, Dr. Carlo Bava, broke the news to her:

"For the occasion, he brought flowers as well [as] seven Easter cakes called Colomba, an Italian specialty that he managed to procure out of season to satisfy her sweet tooth until Christmas, when Panettone is available.

"The doctor said Morano has never had a very balanced diet, relying mostly on animal protein, the occasional banana and grapes in season. Her diet now includes two raw eggs and 100 grams of raw steak a day, which Bava prescribed after she had a bout of anemia some years back. Her nieces also make her apple sauce."

Bava adds that she left a husband who beat her during "the Fascist era, when women were supposed to be submissive. She was always very decisive," AP reports.

Last year, she told the wire service that her singing voice used to draw a crowd. "I sang in my house, and people on the road stopped to hear me singing. And then they had to run, because they were late and should go to work."

Today, the AP says, she summed up her 116 years like this: "I finished school and I went to work. I used to sing. I had a beautiful voice."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.