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Bidwell reading

Oldest person in the U.S.
still teaching life lessons

December 25, 1995
Web posted at: 3:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Mary McRae

HAMDEN, Connecticut (CNN) -- Mary Electa Bidwell doesn't see quite as well as she used to. She doesn't hear as well, either. But she remembers her first ride in a car:

"I thought they were astonishing because they could go up hills so fast." (51K AIFF sound or 51K WAV sound)

And her favorite president: "Well, Theodore Roosevelt, I guess."

drinking

Mary Bidwell has a long memory because she has had a long life. At 114, she is the oldest person in the United States.

"I told her that Guinness Book of Records had contacted us and she said, 'Well, that's not surprising, I'm 118.' And I said, 'No, grandma, you're only 114,'" said Bidwell's grandson, Blake Bidwell. "I think they start adding years to their age after a while."

Bidwell as a child

Mary Bidwell was born on May 9, 1881, five months before President James Garfield was assassinated. She was teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in 1903 when Orville and Wilbur Wright first powered an airplane.

And she was 39 when the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified in 1920. Her grandson asked if she liked the idea of voting. "Oh, yes," she said. "I thought we should vote."

"She's still very articulate and feels strongly about certain things," William Bidwell said about his grandmother. "So she's still sort of the teacher for us." (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound)

Bidwell's wedding

Mary Bidwell also remembers her wedding day in August of 1906. She has just one regret. "I never danced," she said. "I promised my father I wouldn't. ... He thought it was dangerous for a woman to dance -- they got into evil trouble or something. I've always wanted to dance very much." (179K AIFF sound or 179K WAV sound)

The Guinness Book of Records verified Mrs. Bidwell's age too late to get her into the 1996 edition. The latest American edition will list only the oldest person ever: Jean Kilmore of France, who just passed Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan, at 120." (128K AIFF sound or 128K WAV sound)

Mary Bidwell's notoriety has sparked the interest of David Letterman, who wanted to fly her to New York to appear on his TV show. But she said she was not interested. (60K AIFF sound or 60K WAV sound)



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