The world’s oldest person has died aged 115, just six weeks after inheriting the title.
Emiliano Mercado Del Toro died of natural causes today at his home in Isabela on the northern coast of Puerto Rico.
Mr Mercado del Toro had been having difficulty breathing but was conscious and alert shortly before his death, according to his grand-niece, Dolores Martinez. “He died like a little angel,” she said.
Born in Puerto Rico when it was still a Spanish colony, Mr Mercado del Toro was drafted into the US Army in 1918 but was still training when the First World War ended. Later, he worked in the island’s sugar cane fields. He married three times but never had children.
In his home town, he became a celebrity after he being recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records last month.
“We’re all crying, but we knew this day would come,” said Rosa Luciano, the town spokesman.
Mercado del Toro took over the title of world’s oldest person following the death of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bolden aged 116 in a nursing home in Tennessee. She had held the title for just over three months, according to Guinness World Records, after the death in August of Maria Esther de Capovilla of Ecuador, who was also 116.
The current title holder is now thought to be Emma Tillman, 114, who lives in Connecticut. Born to former slaves in North Carolina on Nov 22, 1892, Mrs Tillman became the world’s oldest woman last week after the death of Julie Bertrand of Montreal, Canada, in her sleep aged 115.
Mrs Tillman, who once worked as a maid for Katharine Hepburn, has been widowed for 70 years and spent the past four living in a rehabilitation centre.
According to her carers, she takes no credit for her long life. “I think as she gets older, it gets a little less exciting only because reaching this age is something she feels she didn’t really do herself – she says the good Lord did it,” said Karen Chadderton, administrator of Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Centre, where Mrs Tillman lives.
Longevity runs in the family. One of Mrs Tillman’s brothers lived to be 108, while one sister lived to 105 and two others lived to 102.