QUITO, Ecuador – Maria Esther de Capovilla, a 116-year-old woman believed to have been the world's oldest person, has died in her native Ecuador, her granddaughter said Monday. Her successor is likely a woman from Tennessee.
Capovilla died early Sunday 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.
Capovilla died two days after coming down with pneumonia.
Born on Sept. 14, 1889 — the same year as Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler — Capovilla was married in 1917 and widowed in 1949.
Robert Young, a senior consultant on gerontology for Guinness World Records, said Elizabeth Bolden of Memphis, Tenn., now appears to be the oldest person alive. She is also 116, but was born 11 months after Capovilla.
"Guinness World Records will have to make an official announcement from London," he said. "For all practical purposes, the next oldest person is going to be presumed to be Elizabeth Bolden.
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, the last of whom was born in February 2003, Catherine Capovilla told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
In her youth, Capovilla liked to embroider, paint, play piano and dance the waltz at parties, the family said. She also visited nearby plantation, where she would drink fresh milk from donkeys as well as cows.
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 AP last December.
For the past 20 years, Capovilla had lived with elder daughter, Hilda, and son-in-law, Martin.
"She was in good shape until she had a bout of pneumonia and she died unexpectedly. 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."