Spry super-centenarian Susannah “Miss Susie” Mushatt Jones received an early birthday present when she became the oldest living person on Earth — three weeks shy of turning 116.
Jones — a former tenant patrol volunteer at the Vandalia Senior Center in East New York — became the planet’s longest-living residents after 116-year-old Jeralean Talley of Michigan died peacefully in her sleep on June 17, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
“I’m the oldest person in the world? No, I’m not!” Miss Susie reportedly said to her grandniece, Myra Simpson, 40, after discovering her new celebrity.
Jones was the world’s fourth oldest person at the start of the year, but rose rapidly through the ranks after Misao Okawa of Japan died in April at 117. Her 116-year-old successor, Gertrude Weaver, died just four days later, passing the torch to Talley who reigned for 78 days.
The sprightly senior, who lost her eyesight and is hard of hearing, is otherwise hale and hearty, according to Vandalia director Dee Pozzuoli, adding that Jones was a diligent patrolwoman well into her 90s at the city-run building.
“Miss Susie would watch who came and who went,” she said. “She is still very sharp of mind.”
Jones’s dietary habits offered puzzling food for thought, added Pozzuoli.
“She swears by eating grits and bacon every morning!” Pozzuoli said.
Jones was born on July 6, 1899 to a sharecropping family in rural Alabama, at a time when electricity in every home was just a bright idea, telegraphs were the height of high-tech communication, and Henry Ford had yet to crank out cars on an assembly line. Eager to escape her hard life, Jones applied to the Tuskegee Institute’s teacher’s program, but her parents couldn’t afford the tuition, so she moved to the big city instead — just as Harlem Renaissance was taking off during the Roaring ’20s.
Jones worked as a nanny for affluent families earning $7 a week, using some of her wages to create a scholarship fund for students at her former high school, and supporting her relatives as they relocated to New York.
A divorcee with no children, Jones is a proud aunt to more than 100 nieces and nephews, many of whom attended her birthdays which we celebrate regularly on our Standing O pages. Readers were soon entranced by the cool golden oldie who claimed she had never smoked, drank alcohol, used make up or dyed her hair.
“Miss Susie is a natural celebrity,” said Not For Nuthin’ columnist Joanna DelBuono, who also writes Standing O. “It’s an honor and a privilege to give her a shout out, and may she live another 116 years.”