(WASHINGTON) — The nation’s oldest known living veteran, Emma “Big Mama” Didlake, passed away Sunday at the age of 110, just a few weeks after meeting President Obama during a trip to Washington, D.C.
“It was a month ago today that we went to the White House, a month ago today,” Didlake’s granddaughter Marilyn Horne told the San Antonio Express News. “I think she felt she had accomplished everything and could take her rest.”
Last month, President Obama hosted Didlake, an African American World War II veteran, in the Oval Office during her honor flight trip to Washington, D.C.
“Emma Didlake served her country with distinction and honor, a true trailblazer for generations of Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country,” President Obama said Monday. “I was humbled and grateful to welcome Emma to the White House last month, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Emma’s family, friends, and everyone she inspired over her long and quintessentially American life.”
One of 15 children, Didlake was born in Boligee, Alabama in 1905 and later moved to Lynch, Kentucky with her family.
She married in 1922 and had five children. In 1943, she took a barrier-breaking step –- joining the Army, at a time most women stayed at home, and defying widespread racism and segregation.
Didlake traveled around the world and was decorated for her service. Her decorations include the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.
After the war, she joined the NAACP and later marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Detroit.
In a recent newspaper interview, Didlake attributed her great health to eating fruits and vegetables and not much meat. Each evening she soaked nine golden raisins in a pint of gin and lets them sit overnight; she ate them the next afternoon.
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