Oldest person Eugenie Blanchard dies at age of 114

Eugenie Blanchard in hospital, 10 May 2010 Miss Blanchard was born and died on the same island

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French nun Eugenie Blanchard, certified as the world's oldest person, has died at the age of 114 on the French Caribbean island of Saint-Barthelemy.

She was born on 16 February 1896, when the opera La Boheme was in its first season and just after the first X-ray machine had been unveiled.

On Saint-Barthelemy, she was known for giving out sweets to children.

Her record longevity was declared after the death of Japan's Kama Chinen on 2 May, shortly before her 115th birthday.

Miss Blanchard died just after 0300 local time (0700 GMT) in hospital in Gustania, Saint-Barthelemy's capital, local sources told the AFP news agency.

She had retired to the island of her birth 30 years ago, having passed much of her religious vocation a few hundred kilometres away on Curacao, a Dutch island territory off Venezuela.

After her return to Saint-Barthelemy, she acquired the nickname La Douchy - a Dutch Creole word for sweets - from the tactic she used to draw children into Bible readings.

"She would offer the children sweets, saying 'douchy, douchy', and the name stuck," nephew Daniel Blanchard said.

Birthday champagne

Mr Blanchard, a former mayor of Saint-Barthelemy, attributed his aunt's great age to her virtue.

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She lived so long because "she had decided to give her virginity to God", he said.

She was born into a France where Felix Faure was president and Alfred Dreyfus was still serving his unjust sentence on Devil's Island.

The Lumiere brothers had shown their first motion picture the previous year and, as well as Puccini's Parisian-inspired opera in Turin, that February saw the premiere of Oscar Wilde's last play, Salome, in the French capital.

Miss Blanchard took the veil at the age of 24, assuming the name of Sister Cyria Costa.

Late into her life, she still enjoyed a glass of champagne on her birthday, her nephew said.

Eugenie Blanchard was 114 years, eight months and 20 days old when she died.

It appears that she has been succeeded as the world's verified oldest living person by Texan woman Eunice Sanborn, who was born on 20 July 1896.

The oldest human being on record was also a Frenchwoman. Jeanne Louise Calment died in 1997 at the age of 122 years.

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