SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – A 114-year-old Indiana woman who became the world's oldest person this week celebrated the distinction Thursday with a slice of her favorite cake.
Dressed in a pink polka-dot dress and costume pearl jewelry, Parker was wheeled before television cameras and reporters Thursday in a dining room at the central Indiana nursing home where she lives. Clutching two old photographs — including one from the early 1900s of her and her sisters wearing floppy hats — she shook her head when reminded of her feat of longevity.
"It's hard to believe," she said.
Parker was born April 20, 1893, the year Lizzie Borden was acquitted in the ax murders of her father and stepmother. She taught for a few years in a two-room schoolhouse, but as was the custom of that era, her teaching career ended with her marriage to Earl Parker. She became a farmer's wife, preparing meals for as many as a dozen men who worked on her husband's farm.
She said she never drank alcohol or tried tobacco, and led an active life. But instead of tips on living a long life, her only advice to those gathered was: "More education."
Parker has 5 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren. The youngest, 7-month-old Kole Scott, sat on her lap Thursday as she and her visitors ate white cake, her favorite, decorated with sugar flowers and icing declaring her "the oldest person in the world."
"We think it's amazing, a little lady from the country who really doesn't care much about being acknowledged or anything like that," said grandson Don Parker, 58.
Her ranking as the world's oldest living person was confirmed by the Gerontology Research Group, an Inglewood, Calif.-based organization that tracks and verifies the ages of supercentenarians — people 110 or older.
As of Thursday, its Web site listed 76 living supercentenarians.