Besse Brown Cooper, and the world, have a very special birthday to celebrate today: Cooper, the world's oldest living person, turns 116.
, was born 116 years ago today in Tennessee. She has lived in Monroe, Ga., since 1917 when she moved to Walton County at the age of 19 to teach in the community of Between.
Cooper was first certified the world’s oldest person in January 2011, but had to relinquish the title for a few months when it was discovered that Brazilian-born Maria Gomes Valentin was 48 days older. However, when Valentin died on June 21, 2011, Cooper became the world’s oldest person and she has held that title ever since. In recognition of that distinction, the bridge at New Hope Church Road in Between, where Cooper lived and taught for many years,. The dedication ceremony took place on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012.
Cooper has been reported to attribute her longevity to “minding her own business and not eating junk food,” although she also reportedly quipped to her grandson that she thought she should be given a box of chocolates when she first learned she had become the world’s oldest living person. Her son, Syndey, said his mother has become wittier as she has aged. When she was told Friday that a bridge was being named for her, Cooper told her grandson that she was glad to had given them a reason to name the bridge.
A public figure Facebook Page has been started in Cooper's honor and birthday wishes for her Sweet 116th birthday have begun flowing in from all over the world. Cooper is one of only eight people in the world to ever have reached the age of 116.