Nicolas Calment ( 1837-1931 )
Marguerite Gilles ( 1838-1924 )
Jeanne Calment (b. February 21, 1875 – d. August 4, 1997) was the oldest verified person ever at 122 years and 164 days old. She was born and died in Arles, France. Ulysses S. Grant was the President of the United States when she was born. Calment became the last living documented person born in the 1870s when the Japanese supercentenarian Tane Ikai (born 1879) died on July 12, 1995. She is the only person verified to reach the age of 120.
Calment was born in Arles in 1875. Her father, Nicolas Calment (28 January 1838 – 22 January 1931), was a shipbuilder, and her mother, Marguerite Gilles (20 February 1838 – 18 September 1924), was from a family of millers. Some of her close family members also lived to an advanced age: her older brother François lived to the age of 97, her father to six days shy of 93, and her mother to 86.
According to Calment, she met Vincent van Gogh at the age of 13, when he came into her uncle's shop in 1888. She found him to be "Dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable".
In 1896, at the age of 21, she married her double second cousin, Fernand Nicolas Calment, a wealthy store owner. Their paternal grandfathers were brothers, hence the same surname, and their paternal grandmothers were also sisters. His wealth made it possible for Calment never to have to work; instead she led a leisured lifestyle, pursuing hobbies such as tennis, cycling, swimming, rollerskating, piano, and opera. Fernand died in 1942 at the age of 73 or 74 after eating a dessert prepared with spoiled cherries.
Their only child, a daughter named Yvonne Marie Nicolle Calment (1898–1934), produced a grandson, Frédéric Billiot, in 1926. Yvonne died at age 35 from pneumonia, after which Calment raised Frédéric herself. Frédéric became a doctor, but died at age 36 in an automobile accident in 1963.
In 1965, aged 90 years and with no heirs, Calment signed a deal to sell her former apartment to lawyer André-François Raffray, on a contingency contract. Raffray, then aged 47 years, agreed to pay her a monthly sum of 2,500 francs until she died. Raffray ended up paying Calment the equivalent of more than $180,000, which was more than double the apartment's value. After Raffray's death from cancer at the age of 77, in 1995, his widow continued the payments until Calment's death. During all these years, Calment used to say to them that she "competed with Methuselah".
Calment's remarkable health presaged her later record. At age 85 (1960), she took up fencing, and continued to ride her bicycle up until her 100th birthday. She was reportedly neither athletic, nor fanatical about her health. Calment lived on her own until shortly before her 110th birthday, when it was decided that she needed to be moved to a nursing home after a cooking accident (she was having complications with sight) started a small fire in her house. However, Calment was still in good shape, and continued to walk until she fractured her femur during a fall at age 114 years 11 months (January 1990), which required surgery.
Calment smoked from the age of 21 (1896) to 117 (1992), though according to an unspecified source, she smoked no more than two cigarettes per day. After her operation, Calment needed to use a wheelchair. She weighed 45 kilograms (99 lb) in 1994.
Calment ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin, as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilogram (2.2 lb) of chocolate every week.