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World’s oldest known person, French nun, dies at 118

Sister André was just a few years away from becoming the oldest person ever.

PARIS, France — A French nun who was believed to be the world’s oldest person has died a few weeks before her 119th birthday, the spokesperson for her nursing home in southern France said Wednesday.

Lucile Randon, known as Sister André, was born in the town of Ales, southern France, on Feb. 11, 1904. She was also one of the world’s oldest survivors of COVID-19.

Spokesman David Tavella said she died at 2 a.m. on Tuesday at the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home in the town of Toulon.

The Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people thought to be 110 or older, listed her as the oldest known person in the world after the death of Japan’s Kane Tanaka, aged 119, last year.

According to Guinness World Records, Sister André worked in her younger years as a teacher, a governess, and cared for children during World War II. She spent nearly 30 years working with orphans and elderly people at a hospital before becoming a nun.

Credit: AP
Sister Andre poses for a portrait at the Sainte Catherine Laboure care home in Toulon, southern France, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole, File)

Sister André, who lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, tested positive for the coronavirus in January 2021, shortly before her 117th birthday, but she had so few symptoms that she didn’t even realize she was infected. Her survival made headlines both in France and beyond.

"She didn't ask me about her health, but about her habits," David Tavella, the communications manager for the care home where the nun lived, told a French newspaper. "For example, she wanted to know if meal or bedtime schedules would change. She showed no fear of the disease. On the other hand, she was very concerned about the other residents."

Sister André was just a few years away from becoming the oldest person ever, a title held by Jeanne Louise Calment of France. According to Guinness World Records, Calment died in 1997 at 122 years old.

In April last year, asked about her exceptional longevity through two world wars, she told French media that “working … makes you live. I worked until I was 108.”

She was known to enjoy a daily glass of wine and chocolate.

The oldest living known person in the world listed by the Gerontology Research Group is now American-born Maria Branyas Morera, who is living in Spain, and is 115.

Val Lick contributed to this report.

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