by Roger Chartier: - 8/16/2011
Lived to be 122 years and 164 days old.
She is the undisputed record holder for longevity.
Many records prove her age, so it is now uncontested.
She was born in 1875 and lived in Arles, France.
Members of her family also enjoyed longevity. Her father lived to be 93 and her mother 86.
She had an older brother, Francois who lived to 97 years of age.
In 1896, she got married when she was 21 years old.
Her husband was well off enough that Jeanne never worked after she married. She had a good life filled with hobbies and sports such as swimming, bicycling, tennis, roller skating, piano and opera. The real interesting part of her story to me is that in in 1965, when she was 90 years old she had no heirs as her husband and children had died.
She made a deal with a lawyer André-François Raffray, to sell her apartment on a contingency contract.
He would get the apartment when she died. Considering that the lawyer was 47 years old, and Jeanne was 90 he figured it was a safe bet that he would have the apartment soon.
His deal was to pay 2,500 francs a month to her. That wasn't so bad but since she didn't die it came to about $180,000.00 over the years.
30 years after making the deal Raffray was 77 and died of cancer. The amount paid was more than twice the value of the apartment. Raffray's widow continued to pay the monthly amount until Calment died. Finally, Jeanne moved into a nursing home when she was 110 years old.
In 1988, she met with some reporters during the centenary of Vincent Van Gogh's visit to Arles. She told them that she had met Van Gogh a hundred years ago when he came into her uncle's cloth store. She was 13 at the time. He had come to buy canvas. She found him to be "dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable", and "very ugly, ungracious, impolite, sick".
Jeanne recalled selling colored pencils to Van Gogh.
In her time, she witnessed the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
She was in a movie when she was 114 years old. Jeanne briefly appeared in the 1990 film "Vincent and Me".
That event set a record for her to be the oldest person ever to be in a motion picture. Jeanne was quick witted and sharp. She apparently was immune to stress as nothing seemed to get the better of her.
She was quoted as saying ”If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it,”.
On her 120th birthday, she was asked what she expected for her future, and she answered " A very short one". She felt that laughter, a glass of port wine and olive oil contributed to her longevity.
Jeanne wasn't one for exercise or anything like that to stay healthy.
She smoked until she was 119 years old and ate up to 2 lbs. of chocolate a week!
Here is a nice video.