Originally created 08/15/97

World's oldest woman on the look-out for daughter-in-law



CORBEIL, Ontario (AP) - SWM, 81, seeking pretty lady. Call Mom for appointments.

Like any other mother, Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur worries about her boy's future - so she's scouting the old-age home where they live to fix up her 81-year-old son with a suitable mate.

That's typical of the 116-year-old Canadian woman whom the Guinness Book of Records named Thursday as the world's oldest person - she hangs tough, relatives and caretakers say.

"She's a person who really wants to live and she's a fighter, " said Muriel Boissonneault, a health care worker at Nipissing Manor Nursing Care Center in the northern Ontario town of Corbeil.

"The reason, I am sure, she is so well is she's a good eater and drinker," Boissonneault said.

Mrs. Meilleur has spent nine years at Nipissing, and has made a project out of fixing up her son, whose birthday was Thursday, according to services coordinator Irene Pellerin.

"She was telling him there were a lot of pretty girls and she was going to find him a wife," Pellerin said.

Mrs. Meilleur has documents to prove she will be 117 this month, so she gets the title last held by Jeanne Calment, who died this month in her native France at the age of 122.

Mrs. Meilleur, who was born on Aug. 29, 1880, has been married twice and has about 300 descendants.

Her family said the secret of her long life was hard work and keeping active: She used to enjoy fishing and still loves the outdoors. She also is a vegetarian.

Jean Bosse, one of Mrs. Meilleur's 75 living grandchildren, said recently his grandmother had the reputation of being "a woman with a lot of character ... She wasn't someone you could push around, not a submissive woman at all."

She was born Marie-Louise Febronie Chasse in the town of Kamouraska, Quebec, 95 miles east of Quebec City along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Guinness verified her age through her certificates of birth and baptism, census records, two marriage certificates and other documents.

Not far behind is American Sarah Knauss of Philadelphia, who has documents to prove she will be 117 on Sept. 24.

Staff at a Pensacola, Fla., nursing home plan to celebrate the 121st birthday of their most senior resident, Agusta Watts, on Friday. Guinness, however, doesn't recognize her evidence, Social Security records, as adequate.

"Since Jeanne's death, we've been inundated with potential record claims from around the world," Guinness records-keeper Clive Carpenter said.

"We have an extremely stringent process of verification, to ensure that only someone whose age can be proved beyond any shadow of doubt can be recognized as the record-holder," he said.

Some claims, including one from a man living in a remote Lebanese village, who is said to be 135 years old, were dismissed because of lack of documentary proof.