World’s oldest person from Inkster dies at 116

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Inkster — Jeralean Talley enjoyed, for two and a half months, the notoriety of being the world’s oldest person.

But at 116 years and 25 days old, the woman who loved bowling, fishing and fancy hats “was ready to go home and rest,” said her daughter, Thelma Holloway.

“When she left here, she didn’t suffer,” said Holloway, 77.

“She asked the Lord to take her peacefully and he did. Now she’s at peace.”

Mrs. Talley died at home in Inkster Thursday — “just where she wanted to be,” her daughter said — having been feted and fussed over at several recent events, including a luncheon in April where she gave credit to God for her record-breaking longevity.

“Every day is a gift from above. There is nothing we can do without God,” she said. “He made us, and he knew when He wanted to take us.”

Mrs. Talley also gave advice to younger generations.

“If you want to do it right, follow Him,” she said. “I don’t care what you do for me; if it weren’t for the good Lord, you wouldn’t do it.”

The California-based Gerontology Research Group, which keeps track of the world’s oldest people, declared Talley in early April to be the oldest human on the planet. The previous record-holder, Arkansas resident Gertrude Weaver, died April 6 at 116 years old, according to the group.

Mrs. Talley is succeeded as the world’s oldest person by New Yorker Susannah Mushatt Jones, who turns 116 on July 6.

Born May 23, 1899, in Montrose, Georgia, Mrs. Talley moved to Detroit in 1935, married, and had Thelma, in 1937. Her husband, Alfred, died in 1988, after 52 years of marriage.

She lived by herself until eight years ago, living her final years with Thelma. Mrs. Talley hung up her bowling shoes at age 104, when she rolled a 200 in her last game. She also enjoyed annual fishing trips, and sewed her own clothes.

Several of Mrs. Talley’s 12 siblings lived into their 80s and 90s, and she cared for one of them. She was known as Mother Talley at the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Inkster, where she had been a member since its foundation 10 years ago.

“She was just our heart,” church officer and lifelong friend Christonna Campbell said. “She was the jewel of our community and our church.

“It’s just been a blessing for me to be a part of her life and her family’s life. Everybody at the church cares about her and loves her. She’s really going to be missed.”

Campbell said Talley was “just so humble. Whatever you needed of her, she was ready to do it.”

Funeral arrangements are pending, she said. In lieu of flowers, members of Mrs. Talley’s church suggested donations to its Mother Talley Scholarship Fund, created two years ago to provide college scholarships to graduating high school seniors.

“We provided four students with scholarships last year and now we’re in the process of taking applications for this year,” Campbell said.

Despite Mrs. Talley’s advanced age, church members were shocked at news of her death, Campbell said.

“We just thought she was going to live forever. May God rest her soul.”

(313) 223-4616

Mother Talley Scholarship Fund

Donations may be sent to the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church at 821 Inkster Road, Inkster, MI 48141