Credit: AFP (Agence France-Presse)

World pays tribute to oldest person, French nun Lucile Randon, who has died aged 118

Tributes have poured in for the world’s oldest known person, a Catholic nun from France, who has died at the age of 118 – just weeks short of celebrating her 119th birthday next month.

Lucile Randon, a convert to Catholicism, believed that carrying on working and caring for others were key reasons for her longevity. The incredible French nun worked until she was 108, and was known to enjoy chocolate and a glass of wine daily. Randon, whose religious name was Sister Andre, was born in Southern France a decade before World War One – on 11 February 1904.

She lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic all the way up until the Covid-19 pandemic – becoming the oldest person to test positive for the virus in 2021.

In her later years, Sister Andre expressed a deep yearning to be with her beloved brother in heaven, although she was happy living at her nursing home.

Speaking to AFT, David Tavella of the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home in Toulon, where Sr Andre lived since the 1990s, said that while there is “great sadness” around her passing, “it was her desire to join her beloved brother. For her, it’s a liberation”.

She passed away peacefully in her sleep at her nursing home, Mr Tavella said.

She became the oldest known person on earth in April 2022 – after the death of Japan’s Kane Tanaka aged 119 last year. 

She grew up Protestant, and was a convert to Catholicism in her twenties. The only girl among three brothers, the family lived in the southern town of Ales. 

Speaking on her 116th birthday, she said one of her happiest memories was seeing two of her brothers return at the end of World War One. 

“It was rare, in families, there were usually two dead rather than two alive. They both came back,” she told AFP in the moving recollection.

She described her younger years working as a governess and as a teacher as some of the happiest days of her life, and she spent much of the Second World War looking after children. 

She received a vocation to religious life, and became a nun in 1944 aged 41, taking the name ‘Sr Andre’ after a brother who had passed away. Her decision to join the Daughters of Charity order was inspired by a longing to “go further” and give more to the Lord. When the war ended, she was assigned to a hospital in Vichy, France, where she ministered and worked for 31 years. 

In later life, Sr Andre moved to Toulon. Much of her time in the nursing home was occupied by prayer, visits, and responding to the steady flow of letters she received.

When asked what her secret to a long life was last year, the nun told reporters that the value of work was huge:

“People say that work kills, for me work kept me alive, I kept working until I was 108”.

Others, however, put her incredible immunity and longevity down to her daily indulgences. The nun was known to enjoy chocolate and care home workers revealed she drank a glass of wine every day. 

When requests were made for locks of hair of DNA samples, she rejected these, insisting she didn’t have all the answers, saying: “Only the good Lord knows” the secret behind her long and happy life. 

In later years, Randon was blind and used a wheelchair – however, her physical limitations did not stop her from caring for others who were much younger than her.

“People should help each other and love each other instead of hating. If we shared all that, things would be a lot better,” she said at a meeting with journalists last April. 

It is now likely that France’s new oldest person is 112-year-old Marie-Rose Tessier from Vendee. 

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