Sunday 18 November 2018

Kathleen Snavely: Oldest Irish person in history passes away at age of 113

Kathleen Hayes Snavely - oldest Irish emigrant
Kathleen Hayes Snavely - oldest Irish emigrant

Mark O’Regan

The oldest Irish person in history has died aged 113.

Kathleen Snavely passed away at a nursing home in New York yesterday.

Kathleen Hayes Snavely - oldest Irish emigrant
Kathleen Hayes Snavely - oldest Irish emigrant

She lived for 113 years and 140 days.

At the time of her death she was recorded as ​the 16th oldest person in the world, and the sixth oldest in the United States.

Born to parents Patrick and Ellen Hayes on February 16, 1902 in Feakle, Co Clare, she had two sisters, Lena, and Anna May, as well as two brothers, Martin and Pat.

Read more here: 'Leaving Ireland is complicated but coming home to the same reasons that made you stay abroad isn't simple' 

Kathleen Snavely was just a teenager during the 1916 Rising
Kathleen Snavely was just a teenager during the 1916 Rising

Her father was a publican and farmer in the village.

Kathleen left Ireland in 1921, aged 19,  sailing from Cobh to Ellis Island, with the equivalent of $25 in her pocket.

Before leaving, she gave her two younger brothers some parting words of advice.

"I gave them a lecture about growing up," she said.

"Work hard and you be careful about drinking and grow up to be someone to be proud of."

Read more here: ‘I’ve no secret - I’ve done the best I can’: Oldest Irish woman in history turns 113 

​She also said she was determined not to work in domestic service like so  many Irish women emigrants to the US at that time.

​She had not come to America ''to change sheets or wash clothes."

​Kathleen left Ireland in the middle of the War of Independence to live with her mother's brother, Jeremiah Moroney, in Syracuse, New York.

While there she met and married her first husband, Roxie Rollins.

Read more here: Irish woman Kathleen set for record 112th birthday 

Together they set up Seneca Dairy, a retail business specialising in  products such as milk, cream and ice-cream.

"Neither of us had a formal business education," she said in a recent interview.

"We learned on the job, through experience. If you have a feeling for management and enjoy it, experience will give you the skills."

A few years after Roxie's  death in 1968, she married a successful businessman called Jesse Snavely, who owned a large lumber business in Pennsylvania.

Following the death of her second husband, it appears Mrs Snavely returned to Syracuse in 2000, where she remained living independently until she was 104.

Kathleen never had children.

Karen White, owner of a restaurant which is part of the building where Kathleen’s nursing home is located – said was a regular visitor over the years.

Shortly before her death, Kathleen was said to be"hard of hearing but clear of mind".

It is believed she passed away at a healthcare facility called the Centres at St Camillus in Syracuse, where she had been living for a number of years.

Last year, the authorities in her adopted home of Syracuse declared March 17th ​ “Kathleen Snavely Day” to honour one of its most popular residents.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News