According to the Gerontology Research Group, Thelma Sutcliffe, 114, of Omaha, became the country’s oldest living individual and the world’s seventh-oldest on April 17 when Hester Ford, a 115-year-old woman, died in North Carolina.
Thelma Sutcliffe was unconcerned about becoming America’s oldest living human, yet she was unhappy by the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions.
“She’s just waiting for the day when I can eat with her in the dining room again,” said a long-time mate, Luella “Lou” Mason. “She tells me ‘I know we have to follow the rules, but I don’t like it,’” she added.
“She asks me every time I visit, ‘Are you going to eat with me today?’” Mason recalled. “It breaks my heart that I can’t.”
Sutcliffe was born on October 1, 1906, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Mason expressed her relief that Sutcliffe’s senior living facility had been secured but then added, “Thelma is as determined as ever to do what she wants to do.”
Sutcliffe’s hearing and vision were deteriorating, but her mind was still “very sharp.” Mason stated that she was “very particular about her appearance” and would not allow photographs until everything was in order.
Testing her for COVID-19 proved to be arduous. “They went in to test her for COVID and they told her that I had approved the test,” Mason said. “She looked at (the swab) and looked up at the person holding it and said, ‘You’re not going to be sticking that thing up my nose. You can tell Lou to stick it up hers.’ “
Whenever the issue of her status of being the oldest person in the U.S. has surfaced, Mason told CNN she replies, “We don’t need to talk about it.”
She was not one to let her celebrity status get the best of her. Thelmas nephew, 93-year-old Rev. Warren Sorenson, told the Omaha World-Herald on her 114th birthday: “My aunt has never been one who needs the fanfare and notoriety on her birthday.”
During tough times, her nephew said she was a caring soul.
Sorenson remembered that his family was impoverished during the Great Depression and that Thelma would offer him and his siblings gifts throughout the year, not just at Christmas.
Sutcliffe has lived through two World Wars, the 1918 flu pandemic, and many other disasters. Bill, her husband, died in the 1970s after they married in 1924. The couple did not have any children.
“As far as her age, she doesn’t believe in worrying at all,” Mason said. “She always says, ‘What good does it do to worry?’ I think that’s how you live to be 114 years old.”