Maggie James, oldest Virginian, dies

Posted on Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Maggie James

Maggie James is shown in a photograph taken at her 111th birthday party a little more than a year ago.

BOWLING GREEN – Maggie James, a Caroline County native and the oldest person in Virginia, has died.

James, a resident of the Bowling Green Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center who grew up in a home on Paige Road in Woodford and turned 112 years old in March, died on Friday of last week. She died while sleeping in the afternoon.

Although confined to a wheelchair, she still was in relatively good health, according to activities assistant Sharon Johnson. “She was a very incredible woman,” she said.

“Here mind was pretty active,” said Johnson.

“She always had tidbits of information…to pass on,” she added.

She married George James in 1925, and they were married 43 years until his death in 1968. James had two sons, George and Clarence, and she out-lived them, too.

However, she had six grandchildren and a large extended family, and members of her family were active in her life and visited her frequently.

The center did not throw a birthday party for her earlier this year because James was feeling “a little under the weather,” said Johnson. However, the staff decorated a day room for her, and many of her family members came to celebrate with her.

Family members brought food and a cake for the celebration. “It was a nice birthday party,” recalled a granddaughter, Vernessa Ware of Milford. “She enjoyed it.”

“She was just a joy just to have her here,” said Ware.

“She always said, ‘It think the Lord has forgotten about me.’ ”

Her grandmother, a long-time member of Third Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Woodford, “believed in God, strongly,” said Ware. “She believed He controlled her life.”

She also believed in helping others, and she helped many people in her community, according to Ware. For example, she took care of her grandmother and mother when they were aged.

She suffered from high blood pressure in the 1930s, according to Ware, but her health recovered after her doctor put her on a strict diet, advising her not to eat pork and very little salt.

James suffered from old age dementia in recent years, according to Ware, and her vision “wasn’t as sharp.” She began losing weight after her 112th birthday. In the week or two before she died, her grandmother ate little and slept much, she said.

James lived in her own home in Woodford – relatives lived nearby – and took care of herself up until moving into the center at age 100 in 2000, noted Ware. She suffered a broken pelvis at age 95, and when she later experienced difficulty getting in and out bed, her physician advised her to move into a nursing home.

One of her favorite activities at the center was the regular church service, according to Johnson. She also enjoyed ‘spa time,’ a quiet time with soft music and lotion therapy. Family and center staff members visited her frequently, said Johnson.

Family members gathering to celebrate her 111th birthday a year ago reminisced about the delicious food James used to cook. “She was always out picking huckleberries…and would make the best jelly, pies and, oh yes, homemade wine,” said Jean James of Woodbridge, another granddaughter. “She churned her own butter until she was 90 years old.” She attributed her grandmother’s long life to always following her doctor’s instructions and living a stress-free life.

James, whose maiden name was Montague, was the fifth of sixth children in her family. She grew up to live a simple country life as a housewife, homemaker, and mother and enjoyed gardening, according to Ware.

James was one of less than 100 supercentarians – living people who are 110 years or older – in the world and a handful who reside in the U.S., according to an organization that keeps records of supercentarians.

There are now 70 supercentarians – 65 women, five men – remaining in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group. Thirty-four of the supercentarians are 112 or older; 13 of them live in the U.S.

James is survived by six grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, 15 great-great-grandchildren, and one great-great-great-grandchild.

The family will receive friends from noon to 4 p.m. Friday at Cedell Brooks Funeral Home in Port Royal and also from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Third Mt. Zion Baptist Church. A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday at the church, which is located at 9132 Fredericksburg Turnpike north of Bowling Green.

An online guest book is available at


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