QUITO, Ecuador - Maria Esther de Capovilla, considered the world oldest person, has died in her native Ecuador, her granddaughter said Monday. At 116, she was born the same year as Charlie Chaplin and married the year the U.S. entered World War I.
An American woman, Elizabeth Bolden of Memphis, Tenn., is now the oldest known person alive, according to Guinness World Records. She is also 116 ? but 11 months younger than Capovilla.
"For all practical purposes, the next oldest person is going to be presumed to be Elizabeth Bolden," said Robert Young, a senior consultant on gerontology for Guinness World Records.
Capovilla died early Sunday, two days after she came down with pneumonia, in a hospital in the coastal city of Guayaquil, said Catherine Capovilla, a property manager and real estate agent in Miami. A funeral was planned for Monday.
She was born on Sept. 14, 1889, the same year as Chaplin and Adolf Hitler. She was married in 1917 and widowed in 1949, the year Berlin split into East and West.
Capovilla was confirmed as the oldest living person on Dec. 9, 2005, after her family sent details of her birth and marriage certificates to the British-based publisher. Emiliano Mercado Del Toro of Puerto Rico retains the title as oldest man. He turned 115 last Monday.
Three of Capovilla's five children ? Irma, Hilda, and son Anibal ? are still alive, along with 12 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren, Catherine Capovilla told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Capovilla was from a well-to-do family that traced its lineage to Spanish nobility, and her father was a colonel in Ecuador's army.
When she was young, she liked to embroider, paint, play piano and dance the waltz at parties, the family said. She was married to Antonio Capovilla, an Austrian sailor who came to Ecuador in 1910.
She always ate three meals a day and never smoked or drank hard liquor. "Only a small cup of wine with lunch and nothing more," Irma told the AP in December.
For the past 20 years, Capovilla had lived with elder daughter Hilda. Her calm disposition may have been the secret to her longevity.
"She always had a very tranquil character," Irma said in last year's interview. "She does not get upset by anything. She takes things very calmly and she has been that way her whole life."
Soon after celebrating her 100th birthday in 1989, Capovilla became bedridden with a stomach ailment. She got so weak a priest administered last rites.
Fervently religious, Capovilla took communion every Friday, and always joined the family for meals, often enjoying lentils and chicken for lunch, which she ate unassisted with fork and knife in small bites.
Capovilla liked to watch television, and read newspaper headlines, with some difficulty, but never with glasses. She had not been able to leave the house for nearly two years before Guinness World Records recognized her as the oldest person.
In recent years, she had become less communicative as her hearing declined and her memory began to fade, her family said. But she seemed healthy enough.
"Her family was expecting to have a 117th birthday party," said Young, speaking from Atlanta. "They had recently said that she was in good shape."
Young said Capovilla's claim to the title as oldest person was particularly significant because of the wealth of documentation proving her age, including baptismal and marriage records.
"Many times people claim to be extreme ages, however, often their age is either not verifiable or is fictitious," he said. "Even in the United States, we had a woman who claimed to be 118, and we investigated. It turned out she was 109."
The oldest person ever whose age was authenticated, according to Guinness, was a woman named Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived to 122 years and 164 days. She was born in France on Feb. 21, 1875, and died at a nursing home in Arles in southern France on Aug. 4, 1997.
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