The New York Times A.P. Index April 23, 2003


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Deaths (Obituaries)
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Mary Christian, Nation's Oldest Person, Dies at 113


Filed at 12:45 p.m. ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The nation's oldest person, a 113-year-old woman who witnessed the aftermath of the great San Francisco earthquake, enjoyed junk food and lived alone until she turned 102, has died.

Mary Dorothy Christian died Sunday at the Creekside Care Center in San Pablo, where she had lived since 1992. She had come down with a cold that turned into pneumonia, said nurse Ester Aballa.


``She would be 114 in two months, and she kept saying she wanted to make it,'' Aballa said. ``I guess it was just her time.''

The Gerontology Research Group identified Christian as the oldest living American in November following the death of Mary Parr of Florida, who also was 113. The title brought Christian a brief celebrity that she enjoyed, according to relatives.

Born June 12, 1889, in Taunton, Mass., Christian moved with her family to San Pablo. She was a teenager working at an East Bay chocolate factory when she watched flames engulf San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake.

She married in 1907 and had two sons, whom she outlived. Following a divorce in 1922, she worked several jobs, including elevator operator and department store saleswoman, before retiring in 1971.

Relatives said Christian lived alone until she turned 102 and refused to be taken in by family members. She indulged cravings for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hostess Twinkies as long as she was able, they said.

A niece, Marge Parks, said Christian was sometimes confused about the time and her whereabouts, but nearly always remembered relatives' birthdays and anniversaries.

Christian is survived by two great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

The oldest living American is now Elana Slough, 113, of New Jersey, who was born 26 days after Christian, according to the UCLA School of Medicine, a member of the research group which tracks the ultra-old. The oldest living American man, 112-year-old Fred Hale, lives in New York.

The world's oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group, is Kamato Hongo of Japan, who is 115. The oldest person on record was Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who was 122 when she died in 1997.


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