America’s oldest living person celebrates 116th birthday

A California woman, who is the oldest living person in the United States and the second-oldest living person in the world, celebrated another birthday on Feb. 5. Edith “Edie” Recagno Keenan Ceccarelli turned 116 on Monday, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

Despite rainy and windy conditions throughout Northern California, Ceccarelli’s birthday celebration continued in Willits, the town where Ceccarelli was born and currently lives.

“I’m sure it put a damper on some people, but the amount of people that drove by, we had just an incredible turnout,” Evelyn Perisco told Nexstar’s KTXL.

Police and fire officials from Willits led off the parade which included honking, waving and cheering from people driving by.

“This is an incredible town with the way people are in support. It’s awesome,” Perisco said.

Perisco has known Ceccarelli since the latter was 100 years old, and the two have grown closer over the years. She married into Ceccarelli’s family, as her husband Lee and his brother Charles are second cousins of the supercentenarian.

Ceccarelli’s birthday celebration has become an annual tradition in recent years. The town has a population of 4,988 and is in Mendocino County, located about 160 miles northwest of Sacramento.

A perspective on Ceccarelli’s life

Born on Feb. 5, 1908, with Recagno as her maiden name, Ceccarelli is the second-oldest person in the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest person in the world is 116-year-old Maria Branyas of Spain, who was born in San Francisco. Branyas is several months older than Ceccarelli.

The Keenan surname comes from Ceccarelli’s first husband, and her current last name is from her second husband. Ceccarelli has lived in California her entire life, living in parts of Northern California such as Eureka, Santa Rosa and Ukiah. She is the eldest of seven, outliving all of her siblings.

When she was born in 1908, Theodore Roosevelt was president and Babe Ruth didn’t play baseball in the Majors yet, as his rookie year was in 1914. Ceccarelli was a child when World War I began and sliced bread wasn’t sold until she was 20. The NFL was officially founded in 1920 when she was around 12 years old. The Sacramento Kings, the NBA’s oldest team, was founded three years later.

Perisco said that Ceccarelli sometimes asks why she is still here. Perisco said, “She doesn’t understand why she survived life when those all around her have passed, and I tell her, ‘Edie, God has a plan for you. There’s a reason you’re here.’”


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