Charlotte woman celebrates 116th birthday as oldest living American

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hester Ford has seen a lot in her lifetime, and she’ll see another birthday on Saturday.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Ford is the oldest living American at 116 years old.

“We are living amongst a living legend,” her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, said.

Ford was born in Lancaster County, South Carolina in 1905, but has lived in Charlotte since the mid-50s. She grew up picking cotton, plowing fields and canning vegetables before moving to the city, where she married her husband and raised a family.

She has 12 children, 48 grandchildren and more than 200 great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

“She always gave the best advice, where you wanted to hear it or not,” Patterson-Powe said.

Her granddaughter, Mary Hill, said Ford would say, “Always encourage your children to be their very best.”

Now, Ford’s great-grandchildren have their own grandchildren.

Ford’s great-granddaughter, Kim Hill, said she would tell them, “You can own property, you can own land, you can work hard for what you want.”

At her birthday party in 2015, her son Joe Ford told Channel 9 it is a blessing to have a living mother at that age, and they continue to pray for many more years with her.

Most recently, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles named Ford’s birthday, Aug. 15, “Mother Hester Ford Day.”

“She continues to be a blessing to us and she tells us all the time, ‘You are here to be a blessing to others,‘” Hill said.