She was a mother-of-12 who smoked until she was 102 and worked hard on a farm all her life.
But Marie-Louise Meilleur had another remarkable feat: she was the oldest person in the world when she died at the age of 117 in 1998.
The Canadian supercentenarian, who was born in 1880 in Kamouraska, Quebec, revealed the secret to her longevity: hard work.
She married her first husband, a fisherman, at age 20 and had six children with him before he died of pneumonia in 1911.
She then moved to Ontario to help her sister, whose children were sick with diphtheria, and married her second husband, a farmer, in 1915. They had another six children together.
Meilleur worked hard on the farm and raised her 12 children, four of whom died before her. She also had 85 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren, 57 great-great-grandchildren and four great-great-great-grandchildren.
“She said hard work could never kill a person,” her daughter Rita Gutzman said.
Meilleur also quit smoking at age 102, after catching a cold. She was a vegetarian and enjoyed knitting and crocheting.
She became the world’s oldest living person on August 4, 1997, after the death of Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who lived to 122.
But Meilleur did not seem to care much about her record-breaking age. When once told she was the oldest person in Canada, Meilleur responded, “Poor Canada.”
By her 117th birthday, she was too weak to talk. She could hear only if someone shouted directly into her right ear.
She made headlines when she tried to find a wife for her 81-year-old son. Ann Landers’ column called her “Mother of the Year” for that project.
Meilleur died of a blood clot in her lung on April 16, 1998, in a nursing home in Corbeil, Ontario. She was buried alongside her second husband in Swisha.
“Meilleur is still the oldest validated Canadian ever,” according to The World’s Oldest People Wiki.
Her longevity remains a mystery, but perhaps hard work and a positive attitude were the keys to her remarkable life.
She was an inspiration to many and a testament to the power of human resilience.