Willie Mae Hardy, one of the oldest people in the United States, died in her sleep Dec. 11. She was 111-years old, CNN reports.
Hardy, who was born in 1908 when Theodore Roosevelt was president, on a former plantation in Junction City, Georgia, would often tell stories of her grandmother Nancy, who was enslaved.
“She didn’t want for anything,” Veronica Edwards, Hardy’s granddaughter and caregiver, told CNN from their home in Atlanta. “She was involved in the community until her health declined. She was caring and had a loving heart.”
Hardy left third grade to work in the fields with her family. and help take care of her siblings, the AJC reports. She also picked cotton and cared for the hogs and chickens. In the late 1930s, she moved to Atlanta with her fiancé and daughter Cassie, where she did domestic work for wealthy white people. Hardy’s daughter Cassie reportedly died shortly before her 93rd birthday in March, while some family members put her age at 94.
In an interview in March to celebrate her 111th birthday, Hardy, the oldest of seven siblings, said that her secret to longevity was “trusting in the master…the good lord,” and that is was important “to treat everybody right.”
The protector of her families’ history, she would often tell the story of how the Ku Klux Klan stormed her family’s property when she was teenager and abducted her cousin, who never reappeared.
“She has a lot of stories and historical things that she’s shared with us,” Edwards told 11Alive when Hardy was 109. “Coming through civil rights – she’s seen it all.”
Two of the highlights of Hardy’s life was getting the opportunity to vote for President Barack Obama when she was 100 years old, and to meet First Lady Michelle Obama, who, along with her husband, wrote the beloved elder a letter in 2012.
Hardy, who lived through 20 presidents, is survived by five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, 31 great-great children and four great-great-great-grandchildren.
According to AJC.com, Hardy’s great-great-granddaughter Trinity, 12, hopes to take her ancestor’s legacy and instill her values into her own children one day.
“I want them to know it’s possible,” Trinity said, “to live that long and still have a wonderful life.”