Rosa Brown

  • Full name: Rosa Brown (nee Richardson)
  • Lifespan: 15.03.1899 – 16.03.2009
  • Age: 110 years, 1 day
  • Birthplace: Cobham, Albemarle County, Virginia, USA
  • Last residence: Pleasantville, Atlantic County, New Jersey, USA
  • Application date: 20.03.2009
  • Validation date: 01.02.2016
  • Validation source: Robert Young/Filipe Prista Lucas/Oliver Trim/Waclaw Jan Kroczek


Rosa Brown was African-American woman who lived through Great Depression, segregation, and the civil rights movement. She was born in Cobham, Albemarle County, Virginia, USA. Her parents were Mike and Eliza Richardson. She had four sisters: Cecila, Eliza, Hazel, and Alice, and a brother Steven. Tragically, she suffered from partial invalidity since the age of 13, when two boys playing with a gun in the woods shot her left arm. The damage was so severe that doctors couldn’t save the arm, but Brown learned to adapt. She remained in Virginia until the deaths of her parents. Then, in her early adulthood, she moved from her native Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and ran a 1-acre chicken farm in Milmay, Buena Vista Township in the 1920s. She married Victor Brown. The couple had three daughters: Frances Lively, Hazel Brown, and Alice Miller, all of which she outlived. She eventually moved to Egg Harbor, New Jersey, where she remained for the rest of her life.

Most of her life she was self-employed. She always worked hard. Brown took eggs, turkeys, watermelons, and other good from her Milmay farm to Atlantic City, and sold them at a market. A dozen eggs sold for 50 cents. Turkeys sold for 60 cents a pound. Eventually, she made enough to have a one-stock, two-bedroom bengalow built for $500 in 1936. She had a little farm where she sold vegetables, flowers, eggs and chickens. In the mid 1960s she became a foster grandparent. Mother Brown was a faithful member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church where she worked in the kitchen selling a lot of dinners. She was a member at both the old and new locations until her health prevented her from attending services. In July 1998, she went to Our Lady’s Residence and was treated well there. She had one aide named Kim. The staff would refer to her as “Rosie” or “Grandma”.

In 2002, Rosa Brown celebrated her claimed 112th (actual 103rd) birthday. She credited her longevity to honoring her parents, being charitable, abstaining from liquor and refusing to eat pork. At the time she was described as “very small, very quiet woman with smooth brown skin and short gray hair”. Friends had to lean in close and ask questions loudly. She spoke slowly and softly and gave off an air of thoughtful placidicy. She said it sounded funny, yet she did not feel old. When asked what gave her such a long life, she said: I honored my mother and father.” And she did take care of her parents when they were dying. She also attributed her longevity to charity. “I was nice to everyone. An old lady came to me with a bucket and she said “Ask your mother and father to please give me a half-gallon bucket of cornmeal. I haven’t had nothing to eat today.” And my mother and father weren’t there, so I got the bucket and gave the woman a full bucket of commeal. She said “God bless you” “ Brown never drank or smoked. She once advised people to drink nothing but cold water before age 21, and nothing stronger than tea after that. “I have been through hard times and good times.” She reminded of Pleasantville, which did not use to be as populous in her youth. At the time of her 103rd birthday, Brown still had two living children. Her daughter, Alice Crowder of Pleasantville, born in 1926, said it must be that God has chosen to keep Brown alive. She always took care of herself. She was always healthy. The daughter correctly predicted then Brown would live for many more years.

In March 2004, Rosa Brown celebrated her claimed 114th (actual 105th) birthday. At the time, she was bedridden, and thought to be the world’s third oldest living person. Age did not stop her from singing some of her favourite gospel tunes. Some of her songs were made up, and some were passed down to her. All of her recitations were full of heart, passion, and soul. By the time, she was hard of hearing and nearly blind, yet it took only a shout from a nurse directly to an ear to make her aware of guests. She would tell her life story through songs she sang. She sang of the importance of hard work, saving money and putting everything but what a person needs to have in the bank to ensure financial security. She truly performed for her guests. She even moved her shoulders back and forth to her music.

In June 2004, Rosa Brown became candidate for the GWR World’s Oldest Person title. It was noted she did not have three forms of proof needed by the Guinness Book of World Records; therefore, on June 1, 2004, Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper of the Netherlands, 113, born June 29, 1890, became the official oldest living person in the world. She got the world title after the death of Ramona Trinidad Iglesias Jordan who died three months shy of her 115th birthday. Then, Fred Hale Sr., 113, of New York, was listed as the world’s oldest man. The research on Rosa Brown’s age was being conducted by Robert Young. As of 2004, he said Brown was one of dozens of people worldwide who claim to be older than the official world’s oldest person. Romania’s oldest person, Agora Rafte, was said to be born March 15, 1890, the same day the family said Brown was born.

In 2006, at the time of Rosa Brown’s then claimed 105th (actual 107th) birthday, Robert Young said that records for African Americans are hard to come by since many did not have birth certificates. The 1920 US Census listed Brown as 28 at that time, but Young said in those days many people added years to their age so they would be able to work. According to the Our Lady’s medical records, Brown was born on March 15, 1901. The family did not agree with this, as they believed Rosa Brown was born March 15, 1899 and was 107 then. At the time, Brown was hard of hearing, could barely see and was bedridden. Despite her health problems, she could still sing. For her birthday meal, she asked for fried children, homemade potato salad, collard greens and sweet potatoes.

Rosa Brown was survived by her grandson Steven Brown (Mildred) and granddaughter Rosaline Glover (Frank), both of Pleasantville; six great grandchildren; six great great
grandchildren; and one great niece and nephew.

Longevity Recognition

  • Oldest living person in New Jersey (14.09.2008 – 16.03.2009)

Age Discrepancy and Validation

Robert Young, present-day Guinness World Records’ representative, and GRG Director, then GRG Correspondent for the USA studied Rosa Brown’s age as early as in 2004. He discovered that Rosa Brown understated her age by several years through mid-life, but then exaggerated it in late life. Brown claimed she was born on March 15, 1890 until this was disproved around her claimed 116th birthday in 2006 by Robert Young, then the newly appointed Senior Consultant for Gerontology at the Guinness World Records. From then, Rosa Brown claimed birth in 1901. Finally, Rosa Brown’s obituary stated March 15, 1899 as birthdate. This claim was confirmed by the early-life evidence discovered by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), leading to her formal and final validation, just one day above the supercentenarian status.

Rosa Brown’s age was verified by Robert Young, Filipe Prista Lucas, Oliver Trim, and Waclaw Jan Kroczek, and validated by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) as of February 1, 2016.

Rosa Brown, undated

Rosa Brown at age 103.

Rosa Brown singing on her 105th birthday.

Rosa Brown, aged 105, in June 2004.

Rosa Brown, 105

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