The Hunt for America’s Oldest Man Focuses in on Maywood Deacon

Deacon Walsh Wesley with NephewSupercentenarian Wash Wesley greets family members at a 2013 birthday celebration. Photo by Chicago Sun-Times.

Monday, December 29, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 8:23 PM

The death of 110-year-old Rockford man means the title of America’s oldest male is up for grabs

With the death last week of Conrad Johnson, a Rockford man who would have been 111-years-old had he lived another month or so, the long life of Wash Wesley, a deacon at the Second Baptist Church in Maywood, is receiving greater scrutiny. According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), the organization that studies and tracks Americans who live beyond 110, Johnson was the oldest male in the country.

However, according to media reports and Wesley’s own admission, Johnson’s claim to that title may be in dispute. Wesley, who celebrated his 111th birthday last January, is due for his 112th in another month. That means that he’s older than Johnson by at least a year–if only there is firm documentation to prove it.

According to Wesley’s Oldest People Wiki, “He had originally claimed to have been born in 1903 but both the 1910 & the 1940 census strongly says he was born in 1904, the 1930 census lists him as 1905 [sic].”

The Wiki notes that Wesley is “likely the 5th oldest man in the world if the 1904 year of birth is true.” Apparently, Wesley’s birth year may be an issue of ongoing research to the GRG folks. The group’s website lists Wesley’s case as pending.

Recently, Bloomberg.com, the national business publication, cited Robert Young, a senior database administrator with GRG. It was Young who included Wesley among the three possible candidates for the title of America’s oldest man. Young said that the person with the strongest case may be a 109-year-old Louisiana man who recently celebrated a birthday in November.

According to a 2013 Chicago Sun-Times profile, Wesley still holds an Illinois driver’s license (the oldest person in the state with that distinction by some accounts) and “still does his own grocery shopping, his own laundry, his own housework. He tends a garden in his backyard, growing vegetables and some flowers.”

Regardless of whether or not he tops the list of oldest Americans, Wesley’s focus is perhaps on other things–like staying in shape enough to drive himself to and from his Maywood church. VFP

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