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11/04/2010

Eugenie Blanchard, considered world's oldest person, dies in St. Barts at 114

November 4, 2010 |  9:59 am

Old Eugenie Blanchard, a nun who was considered the world's oldest person, has died on the French Caribbean island of St. Barts. She was 114.

Bruyn Hospital director Pierre Nuty said Blanchard died early Thursday at the hospital in Gustavia, where she had lived in the geriatric ward since 1980.

Cousin Armelle Blanchard told the Associated Press that although Blanchard could no longer talk, she had seemed to be in relatively good health.

"When you talked to her, she would smile," she said. "We don't know if she understood us."

Blanchard was born Feb. 16, 1896, and lived much of her life in a convent in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao before returning home in the 1950s. She was the last survivor of a family of 13 brothers and sisters.

Blanchard had earned the nickname "Sweets" because of how she treated others, said Victorin Lurel, who represents St. Barts in France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly.

Blanchard worked hard from an early age, her cousin recalled.

"At that time, life was very hard in St. Barts," she said. "She tended the garden and took care of the animals."

After returning from Curacao, Blanchard lived in a quaint house in the Merlette district with a cat as her only companion, her cousin said.

Blanchard became the world's oldest person after Kama Chinen of Japan died a week before her 115th birthday, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks people of extremely old age. The Guinness Book of World Records also recognized Blanchard as the world's oldest person.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Eugenie Blanchard in May 2010. Credit: Cyril Folliott / AFP/Getty Images

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