S.C. woman, oldest U.S. citizen, dies at 114

Sunday, January 6, 2013
Mamie J. Rearden poses in April 2008 in Edgefield, S.C. (Michael Holahan, The Augusta Chronicle, AP)

A 114-year-old South Carolina woman -- the oldest living U.S. citizen -- has died, two of her daughters said Saturday.

Mamie Rearden of Edgefield, who held the title as the country's oldest person for about two weeks, died Wednesday at a hospital in Augusta, Ga., said Sara Rearden of Burtonsville, Md., and Janie Ruth Osborne of Edgefield.

Gerontology Research Group, which verifies age information for Guinness World Records, listed Rearden as the oldest living American after last month's passing of 115-year-old Dina Manfredini of Iowa. Rearden's Sept. 7, 1898, birth was recorded in the 1900 U.S. Census.

Rearden, who was married to her husband Oacy for 59 years until his death in 1979, raised 11 children, 10 of whom survive, Sara Rearden said. She lived in the family homestead with a son and a daughter on land that had been in the family since her father's accumulation of acreage made him one of the area's largest black landowners.

Her father sent her off to earn a teaching certificate at Bettis Academy on the far side of the county, spending an entire day on a loaded wagon to reach the school along dirt roads, her daughter said. She taught for several years until becoming pregnant with her third child.

In the mid-1960s at age 65, when some had settled into retirement, she learned to drive a car for the first time and started volunteering for an Edgefield County program, which had her driving to the end of remote rural roads to find children whose parents were keeping them home from school, Sara Rearden said.

Rearden taught her children to treat others as they wanted to be treated and that included never gossiping or speaking ill of others. When asked about a preacher's uninspiring sermon, her daughter recalled her mother saying: "‘Well, it came from the Bible.' She never would bad-mouth them."

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