For more than a century, Alelia Murphy bore witness to changes in America, from wars to a long succession of presidents to the growth of opportunity and freedoms for African-Americans.
Sadly, only four months after celebrating her 114th birthday, the death of the longtime New York resident was announced Nov. 27. Murphy died on Nov. 23, according to the 1199 United Healthcare Workers East Union.
“It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of Mrs. Alelia Murphy. Mrs. Murphy was the oldest living American, having celebrated her 114th birthday in july, surrounded by her family, friends, community leaders, and members of our AFRAM Caucus,” wrote the United Healthcare Workers East Union in a Facebook post.
Though easily considered a local historic figure, at heart Murphy was a friend, a mother, a grandmother, a confidant. Perhaps she made it well past 100 years of life by living by one simple rule: “Treat people right.” That was the message she had for family, friends, and community leaders that attended her 114th birthday festivity at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in New York.
Her visting nurse, Natalia Mhlambiso, also attributes Murphy’s habits as younger person, such as staying away from processed foods, drugs, and alcohol, as contributing factors To her longevity.
“She is where she is now because of what she did when she was young,” said Mhlambiso to ABC News.
When Murphy was born in North Carolina on July 6, 1905, Republican Theodore Roosevelt was president, and Henry Ford’s Model T would not be released until three years later in 1908. Murphy would live through 20 presidents and two world wars and see the dismantling of the institutionalized segregation that ruled American life when she entered the world.
Rose Green, Murphy’s daughter, was able to recall her mother’s stories of drinking from water fountains just for African-Americans, and a time where entering establishments through the backdoor was standard and not the “celebrity” entrance many might now associate it with.
Through her years of life, Murphy saw America’s economic expansion, as she even worked for a hat factory and sold cosmetics at different points in life. But her most important job was that of being a mother and imparting life-long lessons to her daughter.
“She always taught me to keep going, whatever happens,” Green told ABC News in July.
Though physically gone, memories and tales of the woman Murphy was in life will certainly keep going. Funeral services will be held Dec. 6 at the United House of Prayer for All People in Harlem, New York.
On July 9, just three days after Murphy celebrated her birthday, Georgia’s oldest known resident Maggie Katie Brown Kidd passed at the age of 114. Between the two women, they lived to see the birth of the internet and the civil rights movement.
The Gerontology Research Group, a database of the oldest humans in the world, now lists 114-year-old woman Hester Ford of North Carolina, as the oldest living person in the U.S.