The Oldest Woman in the World

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ARLES, France: Died: Jeanne Calment, 122 years old and officially the planet's oldest human being, at her retirement home in the southern French town of Arles. Born on February 21, 1875, she knew Vincent Van Gogh as a girl and was already in her 40's at the time of World War I. A genetic marvel who outlived her only child and grandchild, Calment was riding her bicycle around town well into her 11th decade. She became the subject of considerable media attention two years ago around the time of her 120's birthday, releasing a "rap" record and charming reporters at a lavish birthday party with her sharp wit. ("A very short one," was her answer when asked what sort of future she expected.) Calment's death means that the heirs of Andre-Francois Raffray will finally get to move into the apartment that he bought more than 30 years ago. In 1966, Raffray agreed to pay the then-90-year-old Calment $500 per month in return for her apartment after she died. Raffray died last year at the age of 77 after paying Calment more than $184,000 for a place he never lived in. His heirs kept up the payments. A geriatrician called Calment "the Michael Jordan of aging," adding that you or I have about as much chance of living to 122 as of playing in the NBA. Calment herself said there's no real secret. "I took pleasure when I could," she said at her 120 birthday party. "I acted clearly and morally and without regret. I'm very lucky."