Mamie Rearden, the Edgefield, S.C., woman recently designated the oldest living American, died Wednesday at 114.
“She was exceptional. She was just a phenomenal woman,” said Sara Rearden, one of her four daughters.
Rearden was born Sept. 7, 1898, and spent most of her life on land that had been owned by her father. As a young woman, she earned a teaching certificate from Bettis Academy and taught until she became pregnant with her third child.
That’s when she chose to stay home and raise her family, which grew to include 11 children. Ten of her children survive her.
“She managed to make (us) all feel special,” Sara said.
She said her mother believed in sharing, so if she had an orange with 11 slices, each child was sure to get a slice.
With 11 children, sometimes things got loud in the house, but Mamie was always calm. She also taught them not to criticize or judge others.
“You don’t know why that person was behaving the way they were behaving,” she told them. “Treat others like you want to be treated.”
Rearden loved to read, do needlework and cook, often canning vegetables she grew in her garden. She was more than happy to share with anyone to stopped by.
As an active member of Springfield Baptist Church in Edgefield, Rearden served as church mother and sang with the choir.
Though she enjoyed good health most of her life, she had a mild stroke in 1979 after her husband of 59 years, Oacy, died. Sara said the only effect from it seemed to be that her sharp eyesight got better.
When she was 65, after her youngest child left home, Rearden got her driver’s license and became involved in social work.
“She was very eager to be independent and not rely on other people to do for her,” Sara said.
Her family celebrated her birthday every year after she turned 98. Often the parties were held at restaurants around Edgefield or Johnston.
A broken hip sent Rearden to the hospital three weeks ago, where she spent her last days. Sara said she thinks the ordeal just became too much for her mother.
“That takes a lot of energy out of you,” she said.
People have asked Sara whether it’s easier to deal with her mother’s death because she lived so long, but Sara said it has made losing her harder.
“Somehow or another, you lapse into thinking they’re always going to be there,” she said.
The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 12 at Springfield Baptist Church on Highway 25 in Edgefield.
Rearden was named the oldest living American after last month’s death of a 115-year-old woman in Iowa, The Associated Press reported.