The world’s oldest known person, French nun Sister André, has died at the age of 118, her spokesperson confirmed to AFP Tuesday.
Sister André, whose real name is Lucile Randon, died in her sleep in Toulon, France, according to David Tavella with the Sainte-Catherine Laboure nursing home.
Sister André, born on Feb. 11, 1904, was believed to be the oldest living person in the world, according to Guinness World Records, which recognized her status in April 2022 after the death of 119-year-old Kane Tanaka of Japan.
“Only the good Lord knows” the secret of her longevity, she told reporters.
Born when Tour de France had only been staged once, Sister André also saw 27 French heads of state.
David Tavella, shared news of her death with reporters on Tuesday.
“There is great sadness but… it was her desire to join her beloved brother. For her, it’s a liberation,” Mr Tavella said.
Sister André was said to have a close relationship with her brothers. She once told reporters one of her fondest memories was their safe return from fighting at the end of World War One.
“It was rare,” she recalled. “In families there were usually two dead rather than two alive”.
Despite being blind and reliant on a wheelchair, Sister André cared for other elderly people – some of whom were much younger than herself.
In an interview last April with the AFP news agency, Sister André said: “People say that work kills, for me work kept me alive, I kept working until I was 108.”
During the same interview, she said she would be better off in heaven, but continued to enjoy earthly pleasures like eating chocolate and drinking a glass of wine every day.
She had been Europe’s eldest for some time, but she entered the Guinness Book of Records last April as the world’s oldest person following the death of Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman who lived until she was 119 years old.
It was not her first time in the record books. In 2021 she became the oldest person to recover from Covid-19.
Sister André was born into a Protestant family, but later converted to Catholicism, before being baptised when she was 26 years old.
Driven by her desire to “go further”, she joined an order of nuns known as the Daughters of Charity about 15 years after her decision to join the Catholic Church.
She was assigned to a hospital in Vichy, where she spent most of her working life, about 31 years.
In one of her last interviews, she told reporters: “People should help each other and love each other instead of hating. If we shared all that, things would be a lot better.”