Nebraska’s oldest person set to celebrate 114th birthday

OMAHA, Neb. — The oldest person in Nebraska history hits another landmark on Thursday as she celebrates her 114th birthday.

Thelma Liesche Sutcliffe was born Oct. 1, 1906, in Benson, a city that was annexed by Omaha in 1917, according to Nebraska birth records. She will celebrate her 114th birthday with a party at Brighton Gardens, an assisted living facility in Omaha, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

“She’s doing fine. She still enjoys visiting on the phone with friends and family,” Hannah Astarita, the activities and volunteer coordinator for Brighton Gardens, told the newspaper. “With COVID, we can’t do all the fun visits, (but) we’ll have flowers, balloons and cake.”

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Sutcliffe is the fourth-oldest living American and the 11th-oldest person on Earth. The oldest living person in the world, confirmed by the group, is Kane Tanaka of Japan, who was born Jan. 2, 1903. As of Wednesday, Tanaka is 117 years, 272 days old.

The oldest American, according to the Gerontology Research Group, is Hester Ford of North Carolina, who is 115 years, 46 days old as of Wednesday.

E.A. Kral of Wilber, Nebraska, who keeps track of age records, said Sutcliffe is the oldest Nebraskan on record. The previous record was held by Clara Herling Huhn, who was 113 years, 327 days when she died in 2000, Kral said.

Sutcliffe, born to August and Maude Adams Liesche, married Bill Sutcliffe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, located across the Missouri River from Omaha, on Sept. 3, 1924, according to Iowa marriage records. She was 17.

The Sutcliffes had no children, the World-Herald reported. Bill Sutcliffe died during the 1970s, according to the newspaper.

Thelma Sutcliffe’s nephew, the Rev. Warren Sorenson, 93, of Sun City, Arizona, said he is unable to travel north to celebrate his aunt’s birthday because of the coronavirus pandemic, the World-Herald reported.

Sorenson said his aunt “has always been a very caring and generous person,” especially to his family.

“During the Depression, our family was extremely poor,” Sorenson said Wednesday by telephone. “Thelma’s husband, Bill, worked for the (U.S.) Post Office, so they were better off. I remember her bringing over presents, not just for Christmas, but anytime, for myself, my two brothers and my sister. I would go to war for her because of what she did for us.”

Longevity runs in the family.

Sorenson’s mother, Marie Liesche Sorenson -- Thelma Sutcliffe’s older sister -- died in Arizona just before her 107th birthday, the World-Herald reported.

Warren Sorenson said his aunt will probably be low-key for her big day.

“My aunt has never been one who wants the fanfare and notoriety on her birthday,” Sorenson told the World-Herald. “She would rather just have her birthday and leave the rest of the elaborate celebration alone.”

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