- Full name: Bessie Laurena Hendricks (née Sharkey)
- Lifespan: 07.11.1907 – 03.01.2023
- Age: 115 years, 57 days
- Birthplace: Carroll County, Iowa, USA
- Last residence: Lake City, Calhoun County, Iowa, USA
- Application date: 07.11.2017
- Validation date: 29.11.2019
- Validation source: Robert Young/Edward Schaffer/Waclaw Jan Kroczek
Bessie Hendricks, born as Bessie Laurena Sharkey, entered the world on November 7, 1907, on a farm in Carroll County, a few miles southeast of Auburn, Iowa. Her parents, Hugh (an Irish immigrant) and Mattie (Clark) Sharkey, welcomed her into a family that included older siblings John, David, Laurence, and Ethel. The family relocated to a 160-acre farm near Lake City in Calhoun County in 1908, where a younger sister named Anna was born in 1910.
Bessie’s early life was marked by a strong work ethic and a dedication to education:
She commenced her formal education at the age of five, attending the first grade in a country school across the road from their farm. There was no kindergarten at the time, and she also helped with household chores when not in school.
By the seventh grade, the local country school closed due to a lack of students, prompting her to attend Central School in Lake City.
A significant turning point in her life occurred when her mother passed away from illness on July 2, 1921, when Bessie was 13 years old. She took on additional household responsibilities but continued her education and graduated from Lake City High School in May 1926. During her high school years, she completed a normal training course that qualified her to teach in a country school after graduation. Starting in the fall of 1926, she taught at country schools in the Lake City area for four years.
Life took another significant turn when she attended a dance in Lohrville with her friend Art Hendricks, who had an older brother named Paul. Bessie and Paul married on June 27, 1930, at the Woodlawn Christian Church. They initially resided in Rands for nearly three years, where Paul worked at the grain elevator and depot and operated a small store. During this time, their first two daughters, Shirley and Joan, were born. In March 1933, the family moved to a farm east of Lake City, which would be their home for the next 47 years. The family expanded to include Roland (Ron), Glenda, and Leon.
In their retirement years, after holding a farm sale in 1979, Bessie and Paul moved to a home in Lake City in July 1980. They were only a month away from celebrating their 65th anniversary when Paul Hendricks passed away on May 25, 1995.
In her later years, Bessie Hendricks remained active, helping her family with various projects, including processing 500 chickens during one summer. She was also an active member of the Woodlawn Christian Church, where she had maintained her membership for over 90 years.
In the summer of 2016, over 90 years after her high school graduation, she attended an all-school reunion in Lake City.
Bessie Hendricks lived a remarkable life and was content with her residence at Shady Oaks. She enjoyed visits from her family and cherished her role as a grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and even great-great-great-grandmother. With no significant health issues and only a couple of prescription medicines in her daily routine, her physician, Dr. Derek Duncan, referred to her as his “miracle lady.”
Bessie Hendricks passed away on January 3, 2023, at the remarkable age of 115 years and 57 days, shortly after testing positive for COVID-19.
Bessie Hendricks achieved several significant milestones during her extraordinary life:
- She became the oldest validated person living in the United States after Thelma Sutcliffe’s passing on January 17, 2022.
- With the death of Mila Mangold on July 2, 2022, Bessie Hendricks emerged as the last surviving validated individual in the United States born in 1907. At that time, she was one of only two validated American-born people from 1907, the other being Maria Branyas Morera.
- On July 12, 2022, at the age of 114 years and 247 days, Bessie Hendricks surpassed the prior record of Neva Morris, becoming the oldest validated person ever born in the state of Iowa. She was also the second-oldest validated person to have resided in Iowa, following Dina Manfredini.
- Following the death of Sofia Rojas from Colombia on July 30, 2022, Bessie Hendricks held the distinction of being the oldest validated living person residing in the Americas.
- With the passing of Tekla Juniewicz from Poland on August 19, 2022, Bessie Hendricks became the fourth-oldest living person in the world with her age validated by the Gerontology Research Group, following Lucile Randon, Maria Branyas Morera, and Fusa Tatsumi.
Sadly, Bessie Hendricks succumbed to COVID-19 on January 3, 2023, at the remarkable age of 115 years and 57 days, making her the oldest known victim of the pandemic. After her passing, Edie Ceccarelli assumed the title of the oldest validated living person in the United States.
- Oldest living person in Iowa
- Longevity Recordholder of Iowa (12.07.2022 – present)
- Doyenne of the USA (17.01.2022 – 03.01.2023)
The age of Bessie Hendricks was verified by Robert Young, Edward Schaffer, and Waclaw Jan Kroczek, and validated by the GRG as of Nov. 29, 2019.
Bessie Hendricks on her 110th birthday in 2017, holding a photo of her wedding day in 1930.
Bessie Hendricks in her youth (undated).
Bessie Hendricks as a young woman.
Bessie Hendricks and Paul Hendricks on their wedding day in 1930.
Bessie Hendricks in an undated photo.
Bessie Hendricks at age 97 (October 2001).
Bessie Hendricks at age 103.
Bessie Hendricks on her 104th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks at age 105.
Bessie Hendricks at age 108.
Bessie Hendricks (aged 108) at the Lake City High School’s 90th all-school reunion in 2016.
Hendricks (aged 109) on 4 November 2017, three days before her 110th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks, aged 110, in October 2018.
Bessie Hendricks on her 111th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks on her 112th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks on her 113th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks on her 114th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks on her 115th birthday.
Bessie Hendricks on her 115th birthday in 2022, surrounded by her children.
Bessie Hendricks in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Mrs. Hendricks’s family and Gerontology Wiki