Within a week, the world said farewell to two very lived supercentenarians. Japanese woman Misao Okawa passed away unfortunately on April 1, 2015. Following her is African-American Gertrude Weaver, who passed on April 6, 2015.
From June 12, 2013, when the oldest living man Jiroemon Kimura passed, till her death, Okawa held the title of oldest living person. Okawa was born in the Tenma district (present-day Kita-ku) of the Japanese prefecture of Osaka on March 5, 1898. In 1919, Okawa married her husband Yukio Okawa. Yukio Okawa died on June 20, 1931. At the age of 99, Okawa began living at a nursing home in Higashisumiyoshi-ku, Osaka. Okawa’s death happened in her nursing home and is attributed to heart failure. After her death, Tomohiro Okada, an official of her nursing home, commented how "she went so peacefully, as if she had just fallen asleep," and that they “miss her a lot.” Officially, Okawa was a tremendous 117 years and 27 days old at the time of her death.
Okawa credited her ability to “watch out for [her] health” as a secret to her longevity. Okawa always had a healthy appetite, as she loved to eat mackerel sushi. A month before her death, on her 117th birthday, she was even gifted by an Osaka government official with a bouquet of flowers and wished her many happy returns. While reaching such a daunting age may seem like a long journey to some, Okawa claimed it to have “seemed rather short.” Okawa’s memory lives on in her 2 elderly children, 4 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren.
While her reign was short, after the sudden loss of Okawa, Weaver was awarded the title of oldest living person. Weaver (originally born Gertrude Gaines) was born in southwestern Arkansas, near the Texan border. On July 18, 1915, Weaver married her husband Gennie Weaver. After breaking her hip, at 104 years old, Weaver finally moved into Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation in Camden, Arkansas, but returned home after recovering. Later, she went back and moved in for good at the monumental age of 109. When Weaver was awarded the title, Kathy Langley, administrator at the rehab home, explains how Weaver “knew that she was the oldest person in the world, and she enjoyed that distinction greatly. She enjoyed every phone call, every letter, every comment.” At the age of 116 years and 276 days, Weaver passed away due to pneumonia.
To Weaver, “hard work and loving everybody” helped her reach the grand age that she did. She explains that following God and her ability to “be obedient and follow the laws and [not worrying] about anything” also had helped her. After the heart-wrenching loss of Weaver, Langley comments how the elderly lady “was an amazing woman who [they] deeply loved, and [they are] incredibly saddened by her loss.” For her longevity, Weaver received a letter from President Barack Obama himself and her birthday was declared “Gertrude Day” by the mayor of Camden.
With Okawa and Weaver out of commission, Jeralean Talley, at 115 years old, is now the new titleholder. Talley is an African-American woman from Montrose, Georgia residing in Inkling, Michigan. Like Weaver, Talley claims her strength to live "[comes] from above.”