Health & Fitness

This Kansas City woman's birthday puts her in rare company worldwide

The celebration of Mary Johnson's 110th birthday wasn't supposed to be a surprise party.

But it turned out that way.

"I had forgot today was my birthday," Johnson said with a laugh.

"Well, you've had a lot of them," John Trussell told her. "They probably all blend together."

Trussell threw the party at his house in south Kansas City Saturday afternoon. Dozens of people stopped by to see Johnson, who greeted them while sitting in an overstuffed easy chair and wearing a tiara.

It was the least he could do, Trussell said, for the woman who raised him and other children during a decades-long career as a nanny.

"She basically is my momma," said Trussell, 40.

When Trussell's aunt, Irene Elliott, showed up, Johnson didn't recognize her at first.

But then she remembered, and she flung her arms wide for a hug.

"It's a miracle," Elliott said of Johnson turning 110. "I call it a miracle."

Johnson joins an elite group of super-centenarians worldwide. A 2010 study published by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research could verify only 663 instances of people living to 110.

The Gerontology Research Group at the University of California-Los Angeles is tracking 38 living super-centenarians, all of whom are 112 or older.

The oldest worldwide is Nabi Tajima of Japan at 117 and the oldest in the United States is Delphine Gibson of South Carolina at 114.

Trussell said that while Johnson is showing signs of dementia and has lost much of her hearing, she's in remarkably good physical condition and successfully underwent hip surgery two years ago.

Johnson has outlived her two siblings and has no biological children. She lives with a nephew in Kansas City.

"He takes care of me," she said.

Johnson was born in Arkansas in 1908, but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 13. She moved to Kansas City, where her sister lived, in 1971.

But she said she still pines for California.

"I always threaten (Trussell) I'm going back," Johnson said. "California, it's so warm."

Johnson voted for the first time in the 2016 election after Trussell, who works for the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners, helped her register.

At the time, she said the secret to her longevity was "fried chicken and just a little jigger of wine."

On Saturday she said she has no more secrets, and only modest plans for a momentous birthday.

"I think I'll eat a good piece of cake," Johnson said. "That's all."

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