114-year-old Nebraska woman becomes oldest living American

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Thelma Sutcliffe is shown with a birthday cake in October 2019, in Omaha, Neb. Sutcliffe is now the oldest living American at 114 years old. (Mike Kelly/The World-Herald via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A 114-year-old Nebraska woman who has taken the title of America’s oldest living person says what she wants most is to eat with her friend after a year of pandemic restrictions.

Thelma Sutcliffe, of Omaha, became the nation’s oldest living person and seventh-oldest in the world on April 17 when Hester Ford, a 115-year-old woman, died in North Carolina, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Sutcliffe was born on Oct. 1, 1906. Her longtime friend, Luella “Lou” Mason, said she is happy that the senior living center where Sutcliffe lives is locked down, but “Thelma is as determined as ever to do what she wants to do.”

Until visitors are allowed in the dining room, Thelma is taking all her meals in her room. Mason, who has Sutcliffe’s power of attorney, calls the senior living center 24 hours ahead of time to schedule visits.

“She asks me every time I visit, ‘Are you going to eat with me today?’” Mason recalled. “It breaks my heart that I can’t.”

Sutcliffe’s hearing and sight are fading, Mason said, but her mind is still “very sharp.”

Sutcliffe received her COVID shots at the earliest opportunity, but testing for the coronavirus was a nonstarter.

Mason said Sutcliffe looked at the swab and said, “You’re not going to be sticking that thing up my nose. You can tell Lou to stick it up hers.”

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