Hosea Peeples, Chicago’s oldest voter, dies at age 112
By MAUREEN ODONNELL Staff Reporter December 19, 2012 12:12PM
Hosea Peeples, who lived to be 112. | Provided photo
Updated: January 21, 2013 3:02PM
Even though she loved Barack Obama, it’s understandable that Hosea Peeples fell asleep early on election night.
After all, records show she was 112 years old.
So when President Obama won Nov. 6, her niece Vivian Taylor gently nudged the woman believed to be the oldest voter in Chicago. (She voted absentee.)
“ ‘Your boyfriend won,’ ” Taylor said.
Mrs. Peeples — who was born when Russia still had a czar, Germany still had a kaiser, William McKinley was president and horses occasionally trampled people in the streets of Chicago — exulted with a quiet little, “Yay.”
She died Nov. 20 at her South Side home. Relatives said she was 112.
U.S. Census records show she was 10 years old in 1910.
In 1961 Chicago voting records, she listed her date of birth as Feb. 3, 1900. She was a dedicated voter, casting ballots in 35 elections since 1984, said Jim Allen, communications director for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Until October, she worshipped “four Sundays out of four” at Grant Memorial AME Church at 40th and Drexel, said the Rev. Virgil Woods. Though in a wheelchair, “she would always raise that one arm in the air and wave it back and forth to the music, kind of like rock-music style, and that’s how you knew that music was good,” the pastor said.
“She was still kind of spunky,” he said. “One time, I went to take a picture with her, and she said, ‘Hold on, pastor, let me take my hat off first.’ ”
Mrs. Peeples grew up in tiny Holcomb, Miss. Coincidentally, the woman who would grow up to be a “Peeples” started out life as a “Person.” She was born to Thomas and Sally Person, according to the census.
“She always used to talk about how they had to pick cotton and milk the cows,” according to her niece. “They had to walk to school, carry their lunch in a pail.”
She attended a one-room schoolhouse and rode in a wagon to services at the New Tuscahoma AME Church in Holcomb, according to a 2009 commendation from the Illinois General Assembly for her 109th birthday.
Mrs. Peeples worked as “the help,” cooking, doing laundry and getting down on her knees to scrub floors.
She followed a sister to Chicago, “so that I could get a job and send back some money to my parents in Mississippi to help them on the farm,” she told WGN TV’s Robert Jordan in an interview when she turned 112 earlier this year.
In the 1930s she married Gentry Peeples, who worked at International Harvester. They were together nearly 50 years until he died.
Mrs. Peeples worked at Inland Steel for 32 years until her retirement in the early 1960s.
Though she came from a family blessed with longevity — a number of relatives lived to be more than 100 — she attributed her years to God’s will. “People would ask her what kind of pills she took, or what kind of foods she ate, or what kind of water she drank,” said her grand-niece, Diane Collier.
“She said, ‘This is only by the grace of God. There’s no magic potion. I eat just like you.’ ”
Her attitude probably helped. “I’ve never seen her get angry,” said Diane Collier. “She didn’t let things bother her.”
She loved to travel. She made it to Hawaii, Colorado and Utah.
“She just loved to go, and if Uncle Gentry didn’t want to go, she said, ‘OK, honey, I’m going,’ ” said Vivian Taylor.
Mrs. Peeples enjoyed gardening and flowers, and dressing nattily in nice clothes and shoes. “She would always have her little beads on,” said her pastor.
She watched “The Price is Right” and “Wheel of Fortune.” At one time, she had a beloved Pekingese dog, Mimi.
Vivian Taylor moved in with her in 1997. Though Taylor was younger, Mrs. Peeples frequently headed out to retirement-club events and birthday parties. “She kept me going,” her niece said.
“She loved her some cake — pound cake. She always had a small slice of cake and a scoop of ice cream. That was every night, after dinner,” Diane Collier said. Still, Mrs. Peeples exercised moderation. “She ate what was on her plate, and she never went back for seconds.”
Services were held at Grant Memorial AME Church.