EDGEFIELD, S.C. --- Humorists have long joked that Edgefield has some secret ingredient in its water, having produced so many centenarians.
Now, the county has a record-setting supercentenarian.
Last week, after the death of a 113-year-old Louisiana woman named Mississippi Winn, Edgefield native Mamie Rearden became the oldest black person in the country. She is 112.
Dr. J. Stephen Coles, of the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles, confirmed Rearden's new title. Of 83 known supercentenarians (those who live past 110) in the world, Rearden ranks eighth in the United States and 19th worldwide.
Asked about it, Rearden was speechless. Finally, looking almost embarrassed, she replied, "I don't know how it makes me feel. I really don't know."
Friends and family say Rearden has always lived life to the fullest, without thinking much about age.
She was born Sept. 7, 1898, as Mamie Julia Lewis and grew up in the Pleasant Lane section of Edgefield County. She has never lived more than a few miles from where she was born. She attended Log Creek Community School and Bettis Academy Junior College.
Rearden talks about how her father loaded the wagon to get ready to take her to college and how it would take all day to get there on the other side of the county.
She received her teaching certificate and began teaching in 1918. In 1919, she married Ocay Rearden, and the couple had 11 children. They were married for 59 years, until his death in 1979.
"I always called him 'Shug,' " Rearden remembered with a laugh.
At 65, she obtained her first driver's license, and at 70, she began a career as caseworker for the Office of Economic Opportunity.
Always active in church work, she has served in various capacities over the years. In 2008, her church, Springfield Baptist, honored her with a Mamie Rearden Appreciation Program.
Today, her daughter Martha and her son David live with her in a rambling brick house on the north side of the county. She loves to read. Her daughter said she is in good health, though she walks with the assistance of a walker and is hard of hearing. A lifelong lover of hats, she still likes to look stylish. She eats well and still has a sense of humor.
Friends and relatives consistently refer to her as "generous," "humble," "God-fearing," and a "woman of great spiritual grace."
Her secret to longevity: Always treat others as you want to be treated. Tend to your own business and live a good, clean life and the Lord will bless you.
And maybe, drink a lot of Edgefield water.