Sarah Knauss, world's oldest person, dies at 119

Thursday, December 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Sarah Knauss, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest person, died Thursday at the age of 119, according to a spokeswoman at the Allentown nursing home where she lived.

Knauss, who was 20 when the 20th century began, apparently died of natural causes at about 3 p.m., said Marcella Moyer Schick,
executive director of the Pheobe-Devitt Homes Foundation.

"She died quietly in her room. She was not ill," she said. "They had stopped in to see her just less than an hour before, and when the nurse went back, she had passed away."

Knauss, who was born Sept. 24, 1880, and lived a quiet life as a homemaker and insurance office manager, found herself in the
international spotlight after the Guinness Book of Records declared her the world's oldest person in 1998 upon the death of Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur of Quebec, who was 117.

When her family members walked her into the dining room to tell her of her new fame, she smiled and said, "so what?"

Her death came less than two days before she would have laid claim to having lived in three different centuries.

It was unclear Thursday who is now considered the world's oldest living person. Officals with the Guinness Book of Records did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

"Sarah was an elegant lady and worthy of all the honor and adulation she has received," said Joseph Hess, an administrator at
the nursing home.

Even at 119, she never stopped being amazed by mankind's ability to create new ways to hurt each other, heal each other and explore
the world, her family said.

"She always loved to hear about this new invention or that new invention," her daughter Kathryn Sullivan, 96, said in a 1997 interview. "She liked to remind people that no matter how bad things seemed, she could remember a time when things were worse."

Knauss, born in the coal town of Hollywood, Pa., lived through seven U.S. wars, the sinking of the Titanic and Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic.

She was older than the Brooklyn Bridge and was born before the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. She was 28 when Henry Ford
introduced the Model T and 88 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

When asked in a 1995 interview if she enjoyed her longevity, Knauss said: "I enjoy it because I have my health and I can do things."

Ms. Sullivan, of Allentown, had described her mother as a tranquil person who nothing could faze.

"That's why she's living this long," she said.

Knauss is survived by her daughter, several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.