February 22, 2018
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Former Mainer believed oldest in America dies at 114

FILE - This May 17, 2006 file photo shows Mary Josephine Ray during her 111th birthday party in Westmoreland, N.H. She died Sunday, March 7, 2010 in Westmorland at age 114. The Gerontology Research Group says that until her death, Ray was the oldest person in the United States and the second oldest person in the world. (AP Photo/Keene Sentinel, Steve Hooper, File) ** MAGS OUT NO SALES **
By From Staff and Wire Reports, Special to the BDN

WESTMORELAND, N.H. — Mary Josephine Ray, the New Hampshire woman who was certified as the oldest person living in the United States, has died at age 114 years, 294 days.

Ray, who spent 60 years in Maine, died Sunday at a nursing home in Westmoreland, but was active until about two weeks before her death, her granddaughter Katherine Ray said.

“She just enjoyed life. She never thought of dying at all,” Katherine Ray said. “She was planning for her birthday party.”

Even with her recent decline, Ray managed an interview with a reporter last week, her granddaughter said.

Ray was the oldest person in the United States and the second-oldest in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She also was recorded as the oldest person ever to live in New Hampshire.

The oldest living American is now Neva Morris of Ames, Iowa, at age 114 years, 216 days. The oldest person in the world is Japan’s Kama Chinen at age 114 years, 301 days.

Ray was born May 17, 1895, in Bloomfield, Prince Edward Island. She moved to the United States at age 3.

She lived for 60 years in Anson, Maine. She also lived in Florida, Massachusetts and elsewhere in New Hampshire before she moved to Westmoreland in 2002 to be near her children.

Greg Giberson, owner of Giberson Funeral Home in Madison, Maine, is handling the arrangements for Ray’s funeral, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Madison. Giberson said he had received several calls Monday from reporters.

“It’s certainly a privilege to be able to handle her arrangements,” said Giberson. “For someone with such worldwide acclaim, it’s an honor to be involved.”

Ray will be interred this spring at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison.

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Ray’s husband, Walter, died in 1967. Survivors include two sons, eight grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

Morris, the Iowa woman now believed to be the oldest U.S. resident, lives at a care center. Only one of her four children, a son in Sioux City, is still alive.

“She has some hearing deficiencies and a visual deficiency, but mentally she is quite alert and will respond when she feels like it and isn’t too tired,” said her 90-year-old son-in-law Tom Wickersham, who lives in the same care center.

Wickersham said he visits his mother-in-law — who plays bingo and enjoys singing “You Are My Sunshine” — nearly every day.

“You can put aside any of those typical mother-in-law jokes,” Wickersham said. “When I visit her, I spend probably at least a half an hour with her on a daily basis that involves as much conversation as you’d share, the usual things, the weather.”

BDN writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.

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