29 December 2008

RIP: George Francis

George Rene Francis
6 Jun 1896 - 27 Dec 2008

ZUI this article from the Sacramento (CA) Bee:
George Rene Francis, the oldest man in America, who lived through 19 presidents and saw Babe Ruth swat a homer, died Saturday in a Sacramento nursing home. He was 112.

Mr. Francis, born June 6, 1896, in New Orleans, died of congestive heart failure in Eskaton Care Center Greenhaven, according to his family.

Mr. Francis, an African American who taught his daughter how to drive after she had to give up her bus seat to a white man, marveled recently at casting his vote for President-elect Barack Obama. Possibly the nation's oldest voter, he told The Bee then, "I think he's great, because he's black. Because the white people thought the Negro would never be promoted. I think it's beautiful."


Mr. Francis moved to Sacramento in 1949 in search of work. After a short career as a boxer, he became a chauffeur, an auto mechanic and a barber. His wife, Josephine, died in 1963 after 46 years of marriage. They had four children.

Mr. Francis, who was rejected by the Army during World War I because he couldn't carry a 50-pound pack on his 5-foot-6-inch frame, smoked cigars until he was 75 and got by on six hours' sleep.

He broke all the rules of healthy eating with a diet heavy on dairy and eggs and some lard sandwiches. He loved hot links, and Luigi's Pizza Parlor in Oak Park was a favorite haunt.

He is survived by four children, 19 grandchildren, and 30-plus great-grandchildren, his daughter said.

According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), Francis was the ninth-oldest person in the US at the time of his death. He was tied with Henry Allingham, of England, as the 19th-oldest person and the second-oldest man in the world.

The oldest man in the United States is now Walter Breuning of Montana (born 21 Sep 1896).

Mr Francis was the second supercentenarian listed by the GRG to die since the death of Catherine Hagel on 6 December, the other being Betty Rutherford of Arkansas (4 May 1898-11 Dec 2008). The GRG's list of living supercentenarians currently contains 91 people (82 females and 9 males), ranging from Maria de Jesus of Portugal (born 10 Sep 1893) to Andresa Guerrero-Ortiz of Spain (born 30 Nov 1898). Two of them (both women) live in California.

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