World's Oldest Person Dies, Takes 1894 With Her

Gertude Baines died yesterday at the age of 115 years and 148 days. She was the world's oldest person and the 16th oldest ever, according to a cool table prepared by longevity geeks on Wikipedia. Baines, born April 6, 1894, was the grandchild of slaves who worked as a maid at Ohio State University dorms until her retirement to a Los Angeles nursing home a decade ago. She was a non-drinker and non-smoker who once told a reporter, "I did not have a lot of fun as an adult but I enjoyed going to church every Sunday." She was hoping to live long enough to vote for President Obama again in 2012.

Upon her death, the oldest known person becomes Kama Chinen of Okinawa, Japan, an island that has the highest percentage of centenarians in the world. Sixty-seven of every 100,000 Okinawans is over 100.

The line of oblivion, the starting date for the living history of the world, moves forward 13 months to Chinen's birthday on May 10, 1895.

There's no longer a person around who could have witnessed the revival of the Olympics after 1,500 years (June 23, 1894), crossed the newly opened Tower Bridge in London (June 30, 1894), or lived through the First Sino Japanese War (August 1, 1894 to April 17, 1895). There also are no fans of the soccer team Manchester City FC who can say they've followed the Blues since day one (April 16, 1894).

Baines was the last person who could have hung out with assassinated French President Marie Francois Sadi Carnot (died June 25, 1894), the author Robert Louis Stevenson (Dec. 3, 1894) or Charles Frederick Worth, the British fashion designer who created Haute Couture (March 10, 1895).

Her lifespan reached from the death of abolitionist Frederick Douglass on Feb. 20, 1895, to the inauguration of the first black president on Jan. 20, 2009.

Writing this post gave me a theory about how sports columnist Mark Whicker could have penned that odious Jaycee Dugard column while being blind to its insensitivity. Whicker, a columnist for more than 22 years, writes 200 columns a year. That's an enormous word beast to feed, and you can't fill it up without developing some odd predilections that give you something to write about when the inspiration cupboard is bare. Whicker used the same gimmick in a 1991 column about the release of journalist-turned-hostage Terry Anderson in Lebanon, so he's a guy who obsesses over the sporting events that people miss when they're kidnapped.

As someone who obsesses over the merciless march of time and has filled Workbench with 2,792 posts over almost 10 years, I can to a degree sympathize.


Doesn't the World's Oldest Person die several times each year? How many times did that happen so far this year? ... or in 2008? Is there going to be a "story" like this every time? You're right, this is really an obsession.

This is the third time in the last year the title changed hands.

The story of the oldest person's death is dutifully reported every time by AP, so I imagine I will keep up with it. I think it's an interesting way to view history.

However, if Chinen lives to be as old as Jeanne Calment, there won't be another post for eight years.

In that case, couldn't you make do with a post about the death of the World's SECOND Oldest Person? Or is this a situation of accept no substitutes, nothing else comes close?

So long, 1894!

The death of the second oldest doesn't move the Line of Oblivion forward.

What a life she must have had. So many years, and she saw so many revolutions, so many freedom struggles and God knows what. I really admire her. May her soul rest in Peace of the Creator.

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