Celebrating and Studying Longevity: Authenticating the Ages of Our Two Eldest Citizens

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He said he was born in 1884, five months after our 14th President, Hilary Richard Wright Johnson, took his oath of office. It was the year before the Berlin Conference, when European powers met in Berlin, the German capital, to carve up Africa for themselves.

That was the presumed birth year of 132 year-old Alhaji Muana Kamara, the Cape Mount-born tailor-designer who helped popularize the Liberian country cloth attire.

She said she was born in Nimba County, Central Liberia, in 1863, during the American Civil War. That was two years before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and was assassinated. This makes her by far the world’s oldest living person.

She is Madam Klayonoh Bleorplue, who puts her age at 153. A Nimba-Krahn lady, she was born in the mountainous regions between Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties, and has been working most of her life as a farmer in Killey and Dubuzon, Kparblee Chiefdom, Bellyand, in Tappita, Nimba County.

Why do we argue that if true, she is the world’s eldest person? Because the Internet records the oldest living person as a Japanese woman, Madam Misao Okawa, who on Wednesday, June 22, turned 117 years old. Next to her is an African American lady, Madam Susannah Mushaft Jones of Brooklyn, New York, who is 116 and over 300 days.

Here, we think, is a golden opportunity for Liberian anthropologists, journalists, herbalists, historians, scientists and sociologists to investigate the lives of these two oldest Liberians, and probably eldest world citizens who, most fortunately, are still alive, still talking and walking.

How the wonders of God never cease! Remember it was a few years ago that the wife of Harrison Karnwea, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority, gave birth to quadruplets! Today, thankfully, all of them are very well, walking, talking and in school—due to graduate from kindergarten before they are six! On December 1, they turn five. God rewarded the couple for their faithfulness to and patience with each other. The children came—more than a handful of them—after 11 years of trying to have a child!

This confirms the truism proclaimed in the Holy Bible: “With God, all things are possible.”

The challenge for our anthropologists, historians, journalists, herbalists, scientists and sociologists is to undertake serious investigations into the ancestry, birth, environment, lives, upbringing, professional and social engagements of Madam Klayonoh Bleorplue and Alhaji Kamara.

Where exactly were they born? How can we authenticate their dates of birth? How was it possible for them to have survived for more than a century; she, Madam Bleorplue, for more than 150 years?

Perhaps we may need the help of other world scholars, for we in Liberia are not alone. We have many friends and we believe this is an opportunity to engage some of them. The world should be interested in helping in this endeavor, since we know of no one who has clocked 150 years and counting.

We further believe that the Liberian government and all citizens of goodwill should from henceforth look after these two and all other seniors, and our nonagenarians—those who have exceeded 90 years.

Last week we lost Maryland-born Mother Sally Howe, former Member of the House of Representatives, who clocked 92 years. Two weeks ago, too, the mother of Caldwell Commissioner Alexine Mendscole Howard, Mother Emily Parson, turned 98. Born June 7, 1918, she remains in perfect health, still talking, walking, eating and performing light household chores. She attributes her longevity to God’s blessings.

An Up River associate of Mother Parsons’ is Mother Patina Askie of Arthington, who lives with her daughter, Ms. Bernice Eastman, in Maryland, USA. “Aunt Patina,” as she is affectionately called, is now 104 and still singing and dancing, with total recall – which means she has a retentive memory.

There are many nonagenarians and centenarians around, but we do not know them. We appeal to our readers to tell us about them so that, as The Inquirer and Daily Observer did this week, we may bring them to public attention and give them their flowers now.

We end this Editorial with a call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to honor these two eldest Liberians. The GOL, humanitarian organizations and people of goodwill should reach out and help these and other aged Liberians in whatever way possible.

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