Parker had the distinction of being the world’s oldest woman at 115 years old when she died Wednesday at Heritage House Convalescent Center in Shelbyville, Ind., about 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis. Parker’s funeral was held Sunday at Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Shelbyville. Pastor Bryan Trotter remarked on her wonderful spirit and positive attitude in her advanced years.
“I was telling her grandson after she died about how great it was to be around her,” Trotter said. “She was always one of the best people to be around for me. She could have been as mean as a snake with all the notoriety she received, but she was always the exact opposite.
“She was delightful. She never met a person she didn’t like.”
Trotter recalls a visit to the nursing home by a group of Japanese visitors. Parker supplanted Yone Minagawa of Japan as the oldest person in the world in August 2007 when Minagawa died at the age of 114.
“I remember well when she had a group of Japanese come to see her,” Trotter recalled. “The Japanese are very interested in longevity and honoring their elders. She couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand her, but it didn’t matter. They had a great time.”
Parker had been a widow since 1938 when her husband Earl died of a heart attack. She was also preceded in deaths by two sons. She never remarried and lived on a family farm until she was 100 before entering the nursing home.
“She would constantly talk about her faith,” Trotter said respectfully. “She grew up in an age where going to church was what you did on Sunday, and if you didn’t, there was some explaining to do.”
Prior to coming to Mount Gilead, Trotter worked as a hospice chaplain for more than eight years. He said Parker’s approach to her advanced age was quite different than some of his previous experiences.
“Having been in hospice care before, I had heard many people who were ill at the end of their lives say things like, ‘What is God waiting for?’ I never heard anything like that from Edna. She was looking forward to seeing her husband and her sons again. She was very matter-of-fact about it. “
Trotter told Parker’s family that she was true reflection of Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
“That sense of gentleness and kindness was part of Edna,” Trotter said.
Parker taught as a young woman, earning her teaching degree from Franklin College in 1911. Trotter remembered a poignant moment last year when the youngest graduate of Franklin’s education program met with Parker.
“Edna always enjoyed stressing education,” Trotter said. “When she was asked what her advice would be for young teachers, it was to keep their education up to date and always continue to learn.”
“She was always very proud to be a teacher. She would always talk about her own life experiences and how education had always been important to her.”
Having been at her nursing home for 15 years, Trotter remarked that she had been at Heritage House longer than most of the staff. He credited the hard work of the staff and her family support with helping Edna flourish during the last years of her life.
Parker was born April 20, 1893. Her death makes Maria de Jesus of Portugal the oldest living person on the world. The longest life recorded belonged to Jeanne Calmet of France, who lived to 122.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels paid Parker a visit on her 114th birthday, and she was honored earlier this year by the state with the Indiana Retired Teacher Award. The celebrity that comes which such age is charted by UCLA gerontologist Stephen Coles. Coles keeps a list of the world’s oldest people, and he was told of Parker’s death by her great-nephew who lives in Kansas.
“I will really miss her,” Trotter said. “She was always a lot of fun.”