America’s Oldest Living Person Dies at 115: Her Secret to a Long, Fulfilling Life

by Chase Thomas
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Barbara Alper/Getty Images

The oldest living person in the United States of America, Thelma Sutcliffe, passed away at 115 years of age on Monday. Her close friend confirmed that Sutcliffe had been in hospice care and that “She passed very peacefully. It was just time,” she told the Omaha World Herald. Before her passing, it was confirmed that she was the fifth-oldest person in the world.

Sutcliffe was born and resided in Nebraska. Her husband, Bill, worked for the United States Postal Service. He passed away in 1971. Still, per the Omaha World Herald, she recalled that her husband was “her best friend.”Sutcliffe and her husband never had any children.

Life Back Then Versus Life Here Today

America has changed quite a bit since the time Sutcliffe was born in 1906. Early in the 20th century, the country’s largest two industries were very different than what they are now, for instance. Then, it was boot-making and malt liquor production. Now, it is both data processing and real estate.

This extends to country music, too.

Those in the know trace the birthplace of country music back to Eastern Tennessee. All the way back to the 1920s. Thelma Sutcliffe was a teenager when country music began to hit the mainstream for the first time. Now, the Country Music Awards brought in roughly 6.5 million viewers in 2021. Jimmie Rodgers was one of country music’s earliest stars back then with the hit ‘Waitin’ For A Train’. In 2021, one of country music’s biggest stars, Luke Combs, released ‘Cold As You’.

In 1900, just a few short years before Sutcliffe was born, the small town of Toledo, Ohio accounted for more folks in America than Los Angeles. Folks then in America had an average income of $3,000. Annually. Now, the median American household annual income is around $67,000.

The Secret to Living a Long, Fulfilling Life

Everybody has their theories or beliefs as to how to live a long life. Sutcliffe was no different. She reportedly told her friend via the Omaha World Herald, “I don’t believe in worrying at all.” She continued, “What good does it do? That’s how you live to be my age.” She survived two different bouts of breast cancer.

She may not have known it at the time, but Sutcliffe’s resolve and perspective may have played a pivotal role in her longevity. Time magazine spoke with researchers who studied the habits of those who lived long lives and found her views were consistent with those who were studied. Once more, they found that:

  • Activity
  • Close bonds with friends and family and even the countryside
  • Having a purpose

Folks they spoke with also had been through difficult times, like Sutcliffe, but they moved on from loss and depression and adapted. Adaption is key.

How Thelma Sutcliffe Lived Made All The Difference

Robert Young, who holds the title of director of the Gerontology Research Group’s Supercentenarian Research and Database Division, told NBC News, “I think she basically just had a positive attitude about living.” In the face of adversity, after the passing of her late husband, along with two different bouts of breast cancer, she maintained her positivity.

Her motto was to worry less and to be positive.

Lessons from Thelma Sutcliffe

  • Maintain a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity. Whatever that may be.
  • This too shall pass.
  • It does no good to spend time worrying about things one cannot control.
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