PARIS — A French nun who was believed to be the oldest person in the world, but was said to have been weary of the burdens of age, died weeks before her 119th birthday, her retirement home in the south France said Wednesday.
Lucile Randon, known as Sister André, was born in the town of Alès, in southern France, on February 11, 1904, and lived through both world wars. As a young girl, she was amazed by her first contact with electric lighting at school and more recently survived COVID-19 without even realizing she had been infected.
Spokesman David Tavella said she died at 2am on Tuesday at the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure rest home in the southern port city of Toulon.
The Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people believed to be 110 or older, has listed her as the world’s oldest known person after the death of Japan‘s Kane Tanaka, 119, last year.
The world’s oldest known person listed by the Gerontology Research Group is now American-born, Maria Branyas Morera, who lives in Spain and is 115.
Sister André tested positive at coronavirus in January 2021, shortly before her 117th birthday, but she had so few symptoms that she didn’t even realize she was infected. His survival has hit the headlines both in France and abroad.
In April last year, when asked about her exceptional longevity through two world wars, she told French media that “work…makes you live. I worked until I was 108.
But local newspaper Midi Libre reported that Sister André said in 2020, after recovering from COVID-19, that “God has forgotten me”.
Her health was deteriorating and the newspaper reported that during a visit to her home last May, she had been imprisoned by the infirmities of age, with loss of sight, poor hearing and a twisted face with joint pain.
In better days, Sister André was known to enjoy a glass of wine and chocolate every day, and toasted her 117th birthday in 2021 with champagne, red wine and port.
“It made me very, very, very, very happy,” she said in a phone interview at the time with The Associated Press. “Because I’ve met everyone I love and I thank heaven for giving them to me. I thank God for the trouble they got into.
Sister André, who is said to have taken her religious name in honor of a favorite brother, recalled the highlights of her long life in the May interview with Midi Libre, saying: “The happiest day of my life was was when the armistice (ending World War I) was declared”, and the population of Alès gathered in the main square to sing the French national anthem.
Electricity, which she first encountered when turning on a light in a classroom as a little girl, was a new word for her to learn and, she said, ‘a joy’ .
Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who also lived in the south of France, died in 1997 at the age of 122, which would be the record for longevity.