The authenticity of her age and date of birth raised debates when it was recently reported that she is 153 years old, but that could not stop the government from bestowing upon Madam Klayonoh Bleoplue the nation’s highest distinction as the world’s oldest surviving human being.
She was one of twenty nine distinguished personalities honored by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at this year’s investiture ceremony held in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of several events commemorating Liberia’s 169th Independence Day anniversary.
Madam Klayonoh, according to a citation read by the Chief of Protocol, was born on March 7, 1863 in Gbabee Chiefdom, the mountainous region of Killey and Dubuzon located between Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties. Her date of birth coincided with the end of the term of office of Liberia’s second President, Stephen Allen Benson, who served from 1856 to 1864.
Among the honorees were also Ugandans, Germans and Filipinos. They were drawn from career farmers, marketers, businessmen and women, diplomats, educators, religious men and women, as well as humanitarians and philanthropists.
President Sirleaf said Klayonnoh was honored as a result of her enormous contributions to the cause of humanity, especially the people of Liberia. “Therefore, by virtue of the authority in me vested as Grand Master of the Order of Distinctions of the Republic of Liberia, do hereby admit you, Klayonoh Bleorplue, into the Order of African Redemption and confer upon you the Grade of Dame Commander,” the President said.
Klayonnoh could hardly lift her head when she arrived in the hall where the ceremony was held. President Sirleaf showed excitement when Klayonnoh was brought forth by her granddaughter in a wheel chair, that she has been confined to for nearly ten years.
She spent her lifetime in the region of her birth working as a farmer and housewife. “Even without a formal education, it has always been your philosophy that ‘education is where one finds it,’” the President Sirleaf said.
Being a practicing Christian of the Methodist denomination, according to Klayonoh’s granddaughter, the honoree has always referenced God as the source of her strength and longevity.
Klayonoh is a mother of four, nine grandchildren, five great grandchildren and six great, great grandchildren. According to the citation, she has transmitted her legacy to hard work and “additionally, [she] reared the children of other family members. In [her] clan, she provided a solid sense of support to the Killey and Dubuzon people.”
She, in her weak way, continues to share her experience as a farmer in advising her community and others on the value of good nutrition by reminding them to desist from ‘over-eating’ because a “hundred percent full stomach is troublesome.”
Bleoplue was born during the American Civil War in 1863, exactly two years before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which brought freedom to all slaves in the United States.
In addition to Bleoplue, other personalities honored and admitted at various levels are former President Pro-Tempore Gbenzohngar M. Findley, Madam Doecon Zuku, aged 112, Mr. Bakalee Kamara, aged 103, Executive Mansion Elevator Operator, Thomas M. Nyan, among others.
President Sirleaf expressed gratitude to the honorees for their outstanding contributions to Liberia and pointed out that it is customary that during the Independence Day celebrations, personalities who have worked selflessly and diligently be honored by the state.