The name “Hester Ford” probably does not ring a bell. She died mid-April (2021) in Charlotte, NC. Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States when she was born in 1906 (might have been 1905; the records are unclear). The covid-19 pandemic was not her first. She lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic. She lived through two world wars, saw aviation go from marvel to the everyday, witnessed the age of radio then television and then the internet. She witnessed lynchings and Jim Crow. As a black women she knew prejudice and intolerance, but saw the Civil Rights movement begin to make some inroads. She lived long enough to see 21 Presidents – she marveled and was joyous when a Black man was elected President of the United States – something she never expected.
At one point during his time in office, Obama and Michelle Obama sent Ford a letter for her 111th birthday. Her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe recalls Obama’s letter reading: “Your story is an integral part of the American narrative, and you have witnessed the best of what our nation can accomplish when we work together in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.” “She took a lot of pride in that,” Patterson-Powe said. Hester Ford never missed casting her vote in an election – at least when she was allowed to vote.
After growing up on a farm, she got married at age 14 to John Ford, and the pair purchased a farm and started raising their family in Lancaster, S.C. Together they had 12 children, four of whom are still alive, 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren.
She passed away surrounded by loved ones at the age of 115 (..or 116) years old. Many people have asked what was the supercentenarian’s secret to longevity. Patterson-Powe said she’s not certain there’s any one secret but that Ford was disciplined in her faith, praying multiple times daily.