An Exclusive Interview with Ben Holcomb's Daughter, Leona Ford, in Carnegie, Oklahoma
Ben Holcomb was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living person for the year 2000. He was born on July 3rd, 1889 in Robinson, Brown Country, Kansas, to Chestnut Wade Holcomb (1844-1902) and Nancy Sarah Jane Sharp (1848&endash;1920). He was the youngest of eight children and was named for the 23rd President, Benjamin Harrison. His father marched with William Tecumseh Sherman across Georgia in 1864 during the American Civil War. Benjamin Holcomb's family homesteaded in what is now Dewey County, when the Araphaho and Cheyenne lands were opened to settlement.
Q: Are there any other long-lived members in the family?
A: His oldest brother died at 78 of encephalitis. That year there was an outbreak of this disease. His next oldest brother died at 96 years of age. His other brothers and sisters all lived to be over seventy but none of them had a spectacularly long life span.
Q: How is your father's health right now?
A: Daddy is not sick in any fashion right now. He has never had any major diseases; no heart attacks or strokes, although he has been blind in one eye since he was 31.
Q: Can he walk around?
A: He is now in a wheel chair and this is because a nurse insisted that he use a wheel chair when he was 107. He came to the nursing home when he was 105.
Q: What did he do for a living?
A: He farmed all his life, although he also worked as a cook during the Second World War.
Q: Did he smoke or drink? What about his diet?
A: He never smoked or drank at all. My older sister, told me that she thought he drank one or two beers on occasion, but nothing more than this. His family always had milk; they were farmers. When there were a lot of us at home we often had corn-meal mash. We would fry this cornmeal mash and have it for breakfast. He ate a lot of greens and he liked to add vinegar to his greens. He didn't eat much in the way of eggs and he had a special liking for catfish.
Q: How was his mood? His spirit and personality?
A: He has always been in a good humor, full of life. He always had a grin on his face. I have never heard him blame anybody for anything. He has accepted every turn and difficulty he has encountered. He was a farmer and to farm around here means to know hardship. Some years can be very hard. I have a great big photograph of him, the sort of photograph they take at fairs, in the 30s of him leaning over a broken down plow, and there is a caption under the photograph that says that "I am going to keep farming until I lose my last dime". He overcame terrible hardships with his farming. He was conservative when times were good so he still had enough money to live another few years without depending on anybody.
Q: How is his memory?
A: It has gotten slow in the last few years.
Q: Has he taken any medications?
A: Do you know what hydrogene is? He used that for a while. My sister was a nurse and she put him on all sort of medications. But that was my sister. The only medication he takes now is metamucil.
Q: What else do you think might account for his long life? Does anything else come to mind?
A: He liked to keep his weight under control. If he gained a couple of pounds he would cut out cream or sugar or eat less. He didn't do this to please his wife, he did it just for himself. I would also say he enjoyed life. He liked women too.
Q: Longevity is an inherited characteristic. You might have another twenty to thirty years of life ahead of you.
A: If I do I will thank the Lord.