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Georgia woman, world's oldest person, dies at 116

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 8:16 a.m.

MONROE, Ga. — The woman who was listed as the world's oldest person died Tuesday in a Georgia nursing home at age 116.

Besse Cooper died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in Monroe, according to her son Sidney Cooper. Monroe is about 45 miles east of Atlanta.

Cooper said his mother had been ill recently with a stomach virus, then felt better on Monday. On Tuesday he said she had her hair set and watched a Christmas video, but later had trouble breathing. She was put on oxygen in her room and died there about 2 p.m., Cooper said.

“With her hair fixed it looked like she was ready to go,” he said.

Besse Cooper was declared the world's oldest person in January 2011. In May 2011, Guinness World Records learned that Maria Gomes Valentin of Brazil was 48 days older. Valentin died the next month.

“It's a sad day for me,” said Robert Young, Guinness senior consultant for gerontology. He recalls meeting Cooper when she was 111 and took note of her mental agility.

“At that age she was doing really well, she was able to read books,” he said.

Last year on Cooper's 115th birthday, she celebrated with friends and relatives, enjoyed two small slivers of birthday cake and was serenaded by a musician from Nashville who sang “Tennessee Waltz.”

Sidney Cooper said his family will likely hold a funeral for his mother later this week.

Besse Cooper was the first Georgian to hold the world record. She was born in Tennessee and moved to Georgia during World War I to look for work as a teacher.

The title of world's oldest person now belongs to 115-year-old Dina Manfredini, of Johnston, Iowa, Young said. The oldest known person of all time was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122 years old and died in 1997.

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