As one would expect, journalists paid quite a bit of attention to the recent death of 117-year-old Emma Morano -- believed to be the last living person born in the 19th century. BBC noted that she "attributed her longevity to her genetics and a diet of three eggs a day, two of them raw." She lived through 90 Italian governments.
The people who pay close attention to stories of this kind immediately focused on the next "supercentenarian" -- someone older than 110 -- in the record book. That would be 117-year-old Violet Mosse-Brown of Jamaica, who is believed to be the last living subject of Queen Victoria. Her son is 97.
It is an unwritten tradition that news stories about the world's oldest humans must include this question: To what do you attribute your health and long life? In the case of Brown, it was interesting to note the role of faith in the coverage.
As one would expect, the denominational Baptist Press jumped into the faith details. And CNN? Using information from a Jamaican newspaper, CNN merely noted:
... There is no secret formula to Brown's long life. "Really and truly, when people ask what me eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken, and I don't drink rum and them things," Brown told The Gleaner.
Raised Christian, she has been a music teacher and church organist for over 80 years. After her husband's death in 1997, she took over his responsibilities and became a record-keeper for the local cemetery, a job she continued well after her 100th birthday.
Brown was merely "raised" as a generic Christian? She was an employee in that church for eight decades? She lives in Jamaica and avoids rum?
On the other side of the pond, The Independent offered a bit more of that, in a quote from the woman herself:
Violet Mosse-Brown, also known as Aunt V, was born on 10 March 1900 in Duanvale, Trelawny, Jamaica. She attributes her longevity to her “faith in serving God “ and her genes.
Apparently, this woman is not shy when it comes to talking about her faith.
Reporters simply need to ask, with the assumption that her beliefs, well, might have something to do with how she has lived her life. When that life has lasted 117 years, the details might matter. The Jamaica Observer noted:
She was six months in the making at the turn of the 20th century and her parents, Elizabeth Riley (who lived to 96) and John Mosse, welcomed into the world their daughter, Violet, on March 13, 1900 -- born on the same premises where she still lives, 116 years later.
“I live by the grace of God and I am proud of my age!” declares Mrs Violet Mosse Brown, the world’s second-oldest living person according to the Guinness Book of Records. ...
Now, back to that detail about avoiding rum. Yes, the odds are good that this colorful detail about this woman's life is linked to her church.
A lengthy, detailed Baptist Press feature made it clear that Jamaican media coverage of Mosse-Brown -- including some of the same online material referenced by CNN and others -- included lots of facts about her local church and her involvement there. Did material from Baptist publications on the island show up in Internet searches?
I would assume so. The question, apparently, is whether these details are worth a line or two of ink. Here is the Baptist Press overture about this believer, who was baptized at the age of 13:
What has the world's oldest person, Violet Mosse-Brown, age 117, done nearly all her life?
She has been a faithful, industrious church member, according to the Jamaica Baptist Reporter of the Jamaica Baptist Union. Violet Mosse-Brown, 117, a Jamaican Baptist, is now the world's oldest person. ...
"I live by the grace of God and I am proud of my age!" Mosse-Brown told columnist Jean Lowrie Chin of the Jamaica Observer during a May 2016 visit in the home where the mother of six children has lived all her life. ...
"I love the church," Mosse-Brown told The Gleaner, another Jamaican publication, in 2010, having made decades of "staunch contribution" at Trittonville Baptist Church in Duanvale.
The Waldensia-Trittonville Circuit of Baptist Churches honored Mosse-Brown as "their extra-precious super-centenarian whom they affectionately call Sister Vie or Sister Brown" during a celebration of her then-116 years of life, according to the January 2017 edition of the Jamaica Baptist Reporter.
"[T]he guest of honor was lauded and cited as a person of exemplary character and an ardent, dedicated and faithful servant of God, who served her church for more than 80 years in varying capacities," the Baptist publication noted. "She was also hailed as a mentor, historian, disciplinarian, business woman, outstanding church and community leader."
The Jamaica Baptist Reporter article listed still more accolades, noting that participants at the celebration credited Mosse-Brown "for giving herself fully to the music and Christian education ministries of the church," serving as its organist and choir director "for many years" and as a Sunday School teacher and deacon. (An article amplifying the Jamaica Baptist Union's view of the deaconate also is in the January 2017 edition.)
There's a whole lot more, including the fact that she may have attended a Methodist church for a few years somewhere in there.
Did all of that religious detail need to go in a short report at CNN and elsewhere in the mainstream press?
Of course not. However, was it enough to merely say she was "raised" as a Christian? In particular, I thought it was interesting that she was a deacon and that Jamaican Baptists, just last year, held a celebration of her life. Maybe that was worth a sentence?
So, there is that question again: To what do you attribute your health and unusually long life?
Does the answer matter?
FIRST IMAGE: Screen shot from LOOP media video in Jamaica.