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World's oldest person, Jeanne Calment, dies

Published: Monday, Aug. 4 1997 12:00 a.m. MDT

Jeanne Calment, who took up fencing lessons at 85 and credited an occasional glass of Port wine and a diet rich in olive oil for making her the world's oldest person, died Monday at age 122.

Though blind, nearly deaf and in a wheelchair, Calment remained spirited and mentally sharp until the end. That was clear to those who attended her 121st birthday in February 1996, when she released her CD, "Time's Mistress," which featured her reminiscing to a score of rap and other tunes.Sources close to the Arles city hall, who confirmed Calment's death Monday morning at a retirement home in that southern city, gave no precise cause of death. Calment had spent the past 12 years there.

"She was the living memory of our city," said Michel Vauzelle, the mayor of Arles.

For Calment, birthdays were a chance to indulge. She said in February that she had impatiently awaited her birthday so she could "eat some chocolate and drink a little sweet wine."

In later years, Calment lived mostly off the income from her apartment, which she sold cheaply more than 30 years ago to a lawyer.

He had agreed to make monthly payments on it in exchange for taking possession of the apartment when she died but never got to do so. He died more than a year ago at age 77; his family was required to keep making the payments.

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