WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio - Rebecca Lanier has seen a lot. More than most people couldimagine. She has breathed the air of parts of three centuries.
So when she entered the Warrensville Heights Senior Center nearCleveland on Tuesday, there was widespread applause. It was duebecause Mrs. Lanier has lived for 119 years.
The birthday party has become a yearly event for Mrs. Lanier,who now lives with her grandson, Jimmie Shambley, 61, and hisfamily. When asked how was she doing, the answer came quickly andwith a full voice.
"I'm doing alright," she said.
That was an understatement.
"She still is in her right mind and has great health," saidShambley. "She is able to move about every day and makes her bed upevery morning as she gets herself dressed."
On March 24, 1892, Rebecca Lanier was born in a smallMississippi community. Her grandson said her parents had beenslaves. Though slavery had ended when Rebecca Lanier was born, lawsand practices against black people still were prevalent in theSouth. Because she was black, there was no birth certificate. Thatwas usually the case in the American South during those years.
However, Shambley proudly displays a letter from the SocialSecurity Administration verifying her birthdate as in 1892. Mrs.Lanier's family wants the Guinness Book of World Records toacknowledge her age, which would make her the oldest living personin the United States, perhaps the world.
"But the Guinness people want a birth certificate," saidShambley.
It would be a birth certificate the family could not supply.
Still, 119 years is 119 years. As Mrs. Lanier, dressed in a graypants suit, ate sandwiches and munched on birthday cake,well-wishers swirled around her. Next to her chair was a walker,which she uses to balance herself as she walks.
Her family said even at her age, Mrs. Lanier travels with thefamily, often on airplanes, to various events throughout thecountry. Six years ago, when she was 113, she said the secret tolong life was "to keep on livin'." That, she has done.
She has outlived her husband and their two daughters. Thedaughters died in 2004.
When the party ended, Mrs. Lanier got to her feet and walkedslowly to her grandson's car, which had been pulled to the curb.Even at age 119, she did not need help in getting into the car. Asthe door was closed, she looked through the window, waving.
"God bless you," she said.