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Bettie Rutherford Wilson

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NEW ALBANY, MISS.: Bettie Rutherford Wilson, at 115, she was world's third oldest person


The world's third oldest person, supercentenarian Bettie Rutherford Wilson of Mississippi, died Monday at age 115.

Mrs. Wilson drew a lot of attention for living so long but didn't care much for the intrusions. "She wished somebody else was getting that attention," said her caregiver and great-granddaughter, Della Shorter of New Albany, Miss.

Mrs. Wilson died of congestive heart failure at her New Albany residence. The funeral is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Victory Life Center Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Serenity Funeral Home of New Albany is in charge of arrangements.

Mrs. Wilson, born to freed slaves on Sept. 13, 1890, was the widow of a Pentecostal preacher and mother of 96-year-old Willie Rogers of New Albany. The other generations which survive her include five grandchildren, 46 great-grandchildren, 95 great-great-grandchildren and 38 great-great-great-grandchildren

"She read the newspaper and her Bible every day," Ms. Shorter said. "The TV bothered her, what was going on in the world. She would watch TBN, though, the gospel station.

"She was a very Godly woman. She loved the Lord and her family and worried about people's salvation."

"She's the most amazing person I've met in that age category," said Georgia State University researcher Robert Young, noting that she appears on the front cover of the book, "The Wisdom of the World's Oldest People."

Mrs. Wilson was featured in a Jan. 31 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about Mr. Young's research. He specializes in confirming or disproving claims of advanced age from around the world for Guinness World Records and for gerontology research centers.

Only about 1 American in 5 million lives to be a supercentenarian, 110 or older, he said. The average life expectancy in the United States in 2000 was 76.

He offers these tips for longevity: stay lean and healthy; be happy and keep a positive attitude; and pick the right parents because much of how people age seems to be genetic.

The oldest known person living in metro Atlanta is Dr. Leila Denmark, 108, a pediatrician who practiced past her 100th birthday. Georgia's oldest residents are thought to be Alberta Davis of Thomson, indicated by research to be 109; Eliza Bazemore of Savannah may be 114 or 115; and Anne Christopher of Rome, probably 109 or 110, Mr. Young said.

The oldest person in the United States is 115-year old Elizabeth Bolden of Memphis who was born Aug. 15, 1890, he said. Ecuadorean Maria Capovilla is believed to be the world's oldest person, with her birth recorded in the baptismal book of her Catholic church as Sept. 14, 1889.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 15, 2006
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