Charlotte Benkner, 114; 2nd-Oldest Person in World Lived 'Steadily'
May 18, 2004; Times Wire Reports ( The Los Angeles Times, p. B11) - Charlotte Benkner, recognized as the world's second-oldest person, died Friday at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown, Ohio. She was 114. Benkner was hospitalized earlier this month with some problems and developed breathing difficulties Friday. The exact cause of death was not announced.
The Guinness Book of Records and the UCLA-based Gerontology Research Group recognized Benkner as the oldest person in the world last November, but both groups changed that designation last month after certifying that a Puerto Rican woman - Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan - was actually two months older.
Born Charlotte Enterlein on Nov. 16, 1889, in Leipzig, Germany, Benkner moved to New York with her family as a child. She grew up in Peekskill, NY, where her father ran a hotel. One of the thrills of her life, she later said, was greeting President Theodore Roosevelt while she was traveling with a group of women on a ferry in New York Harbor. "He tipped his hat and said hello to all of us. He was such a nice person and a good president," Benkner said. Last year, she told the Columbus Dispatch she had voted in every general election since the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.
In 1908, she married Karl Benkner, a civil engineer, and the couple moved to Pittsburgh and then to Youngstown, where he was a professor at Youngstown State University. In 1960, the couple retired and moved to Tucson. He died in 1967. The couple had no children.
At the age of 110, Benkner moved from Arizona to an assisted living facility in Ohio, where she lived with her only remaining sibling, Matilda "Tillie" O'Hare, who died in January just weeks before her 100th birthday. Benkner, who never smoked or drank hard liquor and was always fairly active, never offered any secret for her long life. "Just live steadily," she told the Columbus Dispatch last year. "I just live each day the way the Lord gives it to me."