CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The oldest living American celebrated her 116th birthday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Hester Ford rang in another year older from her home in the Queen City, and despite the coronavirus pandemic, her grandkids are making sure she has the celebration she deserves.
Mary Hill and Clayton Harris, two of Ford’s grandkids, planned a giant drive-thru celebration for their granny this weekend.
“We are doing a re-do of 115 and celebrating 116 coming into,” Hill said. “So we are excited about the cars coming back in and just acknowledging her and letting them know that we love her.”
Ford has been living in the same home in Charlotte for more than 58 years. Saturday afternoon, family and friends drove by that home, honking and waving.
"We are just glad to be apart of the fabric of Dalebrook and of Charlotte, North Carolina," Hill said.
Her family said she's lived in the same home for more than 50 years because [Charlotte] is home.
"Her church is 5 minutes away, she loves her church," Hill said.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has forced Ford to stay inside her home and miss church, which had always been her favorite place to go.
“She usually calls once a month the first Sunday of the month, but with the virus. She hasn't been able to go,” Hill said. So they always send CDs and the deacons come and give her communion.”
Hill said her grandmother has received so much love and support from, not only her blood family but also her church family.
“Just the love, the outpouring of love is so important,” Harris said. “Yes, you know, we thank God for that. Just being able to embrace that love."
Ford’s grandchildren said their granny understands what’s happening in the world right now. In fact, this not new to her. Ford was alive during the 1918 Flu pandemic.
“She said this kind of reminds her of that time back then,” Hill said. “She just said she remembers that a lot of people were sick.”
Hill said Ford's mother would help take care of her sick neighbors during the pandemic.
“That's my grandmother’s spirit,” Hill said.
Ford was born on August 15, 1904, in Lancaster, South Carolina when Theodore Roosevelt was elected to his second term as President of the United States. She worked on a farm where she not only planted and picked cotton but plowed the field and cut wood.
Ford was married and the couple had 12 children; eight girls and four boys.
She moved to Charlotte in 1953 where she worked for more than 20 years as a nanny for two families in Myers Park.
She has 12 children, 48 grandchildren, 108 great-grandchildren, and approximately 120 great-great-grandchildren.
Hill and Harris said they are blessed to have so many years with their grandmother.
“It’s so important if you do have loved ones, no matter what their age, cherish them especially when they get older. and don’t forget to celebrate them,” Harris said. “Because life is so short.
For years, Hester Ford always thought she was born in 1905, but just last year the census bureau documents show she was born in 1904. Ford is now the oldest person in the country, and the seventh oldest person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Ford’s family said in lieu of flowers and gifts for Ford's birthday celebration, they would appreciate people donating to the National Kidney Foundation.