State's oldest citizen, Mary Haile, 116, dies Miss Haile may have been the oldest person in the nation.

May 08, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Mary Haile, a longtime domestic worker in Baltimore who may have been the oldest person in the United States, died Tuesday at Union Memorial Hospital of complications attributed to her age -- which was said to be 116.

In recent years, she lived at the Century Home at 102 N. Paca St. She had no known surviving family, said Louise Fouch, who earlier had taken care of Miss Haile and was her friend for a half-century.

Although the nursing home listed Miss Haile's birth date as June 4, 1875, there was no birth certificate or other formal documentation. If the birth date was correct, she was the oldest U.S. citizen -- judging from the 1992 edition of the Guinness Book of Records.

It lists Etta Mae Greene, a 114-year-old West Virginian, as the oldest.

Believed to be the oldest person in the world is Jeanne Louise Calment of Arles, France, born on Feb. 21, 1875.

Miss Haile had a large collection of plaques, letters and honors from state and federal officials sending her birthday greetings in recent years, including several framed notes from George and Barbara Bush on White House stationery.

"Barbara and I have learned of your special day, and we are delighted to send our best wishes as you celebrate your 115th birthday," said a 1990 letter bearing the signature of President Bush.

At her last birthday, Miss Haile received special greetings from Gov. William Donald Schaefer noting she had reached age 116 and saying: "On behalf of the people of Maryland, it is my pleasure to recognize this important milestone in your life."

The governor designated her an "MVC -- Most Valuable Citizen of Maryland."

Miss Haile was born in Ohio, and moved to Baltimore with a school friend as a young woman. She never knew her father and was "rejected" by her mother, according to Mrs. Fouch, who in later years took Miss Haile into her home on Brooks Lane in West Baltimore and made her part of the family.

Miss Haile, in turn, regarded Mrs.Fouch's grandchildren and young nieces and nephews as her own -- and at her 1989 birthday party, she joined some of the youngsters in giving a thumbs-up gesture to a newspaper photographer.

"She was just welcome here," Mrs. Fouch said last night. "She would cook if I would let her, or wash dishes. She did them better than me."

For years, Miss Haile was a parishioner and volunteer at St. Pius V Roman Catholic Church in the 500 block of N. Schroeder St.-- walking there when she was able and later being driven.

"She was never sick. She never wore glasses. She said she ain't never had a headache in her life," Mrs. Fouch said of her friend, whom she visited regularly at the nursing home.

"She wouldn't drink water. Just coffee, coffee, coffee -- that's all she wants."

Services for Miss Haile were scheduled for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Leroy O. Dyett & Son Funeral Home, 4600 Liberty Heights Ave.

The Loudon Park Cemetery, 3700 Wilkens Ave., provided a lot for the burial in its historic section, which includes the graves of Mary Pickersgill, who made the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner," and Linotype inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler.

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