By GLENN HANNIGAN
Bessie Brown Cooper is one in a billion. Literally.
Mrs. Cooper’s life is one for the record books. More accurately, the record book: the Guinness Book of World Records. Mrs. Cooper, a long-time member of New Hope at Between UMC, is listed in the recently published 2011 edition of Guinness as the No. 3 oldest living people in the world.
In August, Bessie Cooper turned 114. That makes her one-in-a-billion.
“Up until a year ago she used to read her Bible every day,” said Sidney Cooper, one of Bessie’s four children, all living. “She has a hard time reading now but she is still alert most days.”
Bessie Cooper has been a member of New Hope at Between since 1923. She faithfully attended each Sunday until late into her 90s. Cooper lives in a nursing home now.
“She is much loved at the church,” said New Hope pastor Loretta Altman. “She raised her children in the church and was very active in women’s ministry and UMW.”
Mrs. Cooper, was born in Sullivan, Tenn., in 1896. She graduated from East Tennessee Normal School in 1916 and became a teacher. She moved to Between, Ga., in 1917 for the opportunity to increase her pay as a teacher: she earned $70 a month in Georgia, double what she earned in Tennessee.
In Georgia she met and later married Luther H. Cooper. Mrs. Cooper taught school until her children were born. Her hobbies include gardening and reading. One of her former students, age 96, resides in the same nursing home where she now lives.
On Aug. 26, at her 114th birthday celebration, a Guinness Book of World Records representative, Robert Young, presented her with a supercentenarian -- anyone more than 110 years old -- plaque.
"Not a lot of people turn 114," said Young, who serves as the Guinness consultant on gerontology. "Only about one in a billion reach that age."
Mrs. Cooper is the oldest living person in Georgia and the second oldest in the nation. A woman in Texas is 40 days older than Bessie.
“She still communicates well,” pastor Altman said. “She does not hear very well, but she is still sharp and knows what is going on. She is a former teachers and I am a former teacher so I have enjoyed getting to talk with her.”
This article recently ran in the North Georgia Advocate, the official print source of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. For more information about the North Georgia Advocate, or to subscribe, please visit www.ngumc.org/advocate or call 678.533.1376.