'Minding own business' and pepper key to long life as world's oldest person dies


THE BRAZILIAN woman officially recognised as the world’s oldest person has died just 18 days short of her 115th birthday.

Maria Gomes Valentim entered hospital on Sunday suffering from pneumonia and died of multiple organ failure in the early hours of Tuesday morning, aged 114 years and 347 days.

“It was a privilege to live with her, we have many lovely things to remember,” said Jane Ribeiro Moraes, her 63-year old granddaughter, confirming the death to local media.

The Guinness Book of Recordsonly officially recognised Valentim as the world’s oldest person in May of this year when it confirmed she was born on July 9th, 1896, in the hillside town of Carangola in the southeast of Brazil, where she lived all her life.

The record now reverts to Besse Cooper, aged 114 years and 299 days – the US woman who had previously held the title until Valentim’s age was verified.

Known to family and friends as Grannie Quita, Valentim had always put her longevity down to a quiet life and “minding her own business”, great-granddaughter Taís Nolasco told a Brazilian newspaper.

She was fond of lots of pepper on her food, fried bananas and a nap after lunch. Up until March of this year she was partial to a small glass of wine.

“She went to the bank and bakery up until 110 years of age. The staff at the bank were used to her,” recalled Nolasco.

“She used to skip the priority queue for pensioners, because she was the oldest of them all. For her they had to have a super-pensioner queue,” her great-granddaughter added.

Married at 16, Valentim had been a widow since 1946. The eldest of six, she had outlived all her siblings and her only son. She was buried in the Cemetery of Peace on Tuesday afternoon and Carangola’s government has said a local health centre for the elderly will be renamed after her on what would have been her 115th birthday.

Her family had been planning to bake a cake to celebrate the occasion, when the Guinness Book of Records was to have officially delivered her certificate as the world’s oldest person.

Valentim was the first Brazilian to officially hold the title of the world’s oldest person. Others have claimed it in the past, though lack of corroborating documentation has denied them recognition from the Guinness record-keepers.

Last year an illiterate man in the northeast of Brazil celebrated what he claimed was his 116th birthday, though his birth certificate was only issued in 1985.