East Hartford resident, 114, now world’s oldest woman

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A 114-year-old East Hartford resident has become the world’s oldest known woman after the death this week of a Canadian woman.

Emma Faust Tillman, who was born on Nov. 22, 1892, became the oldest validated female “supercentenarian” in the world when 115-year-old Julie Winnifred Bertrand of Montreal, Canada, died in her sleep early Thursday.

Tillman is now the second-oldest known person in the world behind 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, born August 21, 1891.

They are among many validated “supercentenarians” on a list maintained by the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles and other organizations.

Officials at East Hartford’s Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center, where Tillman has lived since she was 110, were surprised to learn Friday of her new honor. They planned to wait until her family notified her, not wanting to overwhelm her.

“At 114 years old, having too much activity can wear on you after a while,” said Karen Chadderton, the center’s administrator.

Tillman, who has been widowed for almost 70 years, takes no credit for her uncommon longevity and says she has no secrets for other aspiring supercentenarians.

“I think as she gets older, it gets a little less exciting only because reaching this age is something she feels she didn’t really do herself – she says the good Lord did it,” Chadderton said.

Tillman, one of 23 children, was born to former slaves who moved from North Carolina to Glastonbury in 1895.

She graduated in 1909 as the only black student in her high school and later worked as a cook, maid, party caterer and caretaker for children of several wealthy families.

She married Arthur Tillman in 1914, and they moved to Hartford’s south end and raised two daughters – both now deceased – before his death in 1939.

Before moving to Riverside, she lived alone in a Hartford apartment for years, family members have said. She also has been a member of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Hartford for more than 80 years.

Tillman’s great-nephew, former Hartford fire chief John B. Stewart, said last month that she never smoked, never drank, did not need glasses and agreed to wear a hearing aid only reluctantly.

Longevity also runs in the family. One of Tillman’s brothers lived to be 108, while one sister lived to 105 and two others lived to 102.

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