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America’s Oldest Person Nearing 114th Birthday

September 3, 1991

LINDSIDE, W.Va. (AP) _ At 113, Ettie Mae Greene, America’s oldest person, has earned the right to do things her own way.

Like sleeping.

Greene usually sleeps for about three days and is awake for three.

Marrianne Blakeslee, director of nursing at the Springfield Comprehensive Care Center, said Greene talks steadily before she tires herself out. Nurses feed her three meals a day as she dozes, Blakeslee said.

A former farmer and seamstress, Greene said a daily milkshake, a vitamin and ″good, clean living″ are the keys to her long life.

″It’s been a pretty good life I guess,″ she said. ″I’m so tired I can hardly stand it.″

She has outlived five of her nine children and has been a widow for 72 years. She has 21 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren and 37 great-great- grandchildren.

The Guinness Book of Records lists her as the world’s third-oldest person, behind a 117-year-old in France and a woman in England who is a month older than Greene.

Family and nurses, who call her ″Grandmother,″ will celebrate her 114th birthday Sept. 8 at the nursing home where she’s lived for three years.

It’s an age she thinks is ″quite much.″

She recently greeted visitors to her room with outstretched arms and a spritely ″Howdy.″

Her snowy hair was twisted back with purple combs and a silky ribbon. She weighs about 95 pounds.

She loves having her photograph taken. At the click of a camera, she says, ″C-H-double-E-S-E.″

″Grandmother always says ‘living a clean life’ is what made her live so long,″ said granddaughter Rita Dillon Barker, 50, of Wayside. ″She never smoked or drank and she worked hard on the farm.″

″When you ask her something, it’s not just ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ She always makes a complete sentence,″ Blakeslee said.

″Every response is unique. When you ask her if she’s hungry, she says, ’I’m hungry as a bear,‴ Blakeslee said. ″She’s like a cocoon, but she eats every bite.″

″She has a real sweet disposition and an ability to remember everything,″ said Elizabeth French, Greene’s day nurse. ″I would not be here if she wasn’t here. I really feel better after I have come here to work with her. It’s a privilege.″

Greene occasionally sings the hymns ″Amazing Grace″ and ″At the Cross″ and recites the 23rd Psalm. ″The Bible is her favorite book,″ Barker said.

Greene grew up as Ettie Mae Thomas and lived in the towns of Wayside, Greenville and Peterstown. Her uncles fought in the Civil War.

She was raised amid wild turkeys and chickens, home-canned raspberries and homemade apple butter. Her mother taught her to quilt and use a spinning wheel.

Greene thinks the telephone is the greatest invention. Barker said voting was important to her grandmother.

″She was near 100 when she last voted,″ Barker said.

Greene’s daughter Ada Dillon, 81, recalled her mother climbing trees to pick cherries and peaches while in her 80s and 90s.

″Mother said, ’What do you think I’d get done if I rested?‴ Dillon said.

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