Nun who survived coronavirus celebrates 117th birthday

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A French nun who is believed to be the world’s second-oldest person, and who recently survived a bout of Covid-19, was celebrating her 117th birthday on Thursday.

Plans for the day included champagne and red wine, and a feast with her favourite dessert, a Mass in her honour and other treats to toast Sister Andre’s exceptional longevity through two world wars and her recent brush with coronavirus.

David Tavella, communications manager for the nun’s care home in the southern French city of Toulon, said: “It’s a big day.

“She is in great shape. I went to see her this morning. She is really happy. She wanted me to tell her the schedule for the day again.”

Mr Tavella said: “She was very proud when I told her. She said: ‘A Mass for me?’”

The menu for the birthday feast included a starter of foie gras, followed by capon with fragrant mushrooms and wrapping up with baked Alaska, the nun’s favourite dessert.

“All of it washed down with red wine, because she drinks red wine. It’s one of her secrets of longevity. And a bit of champagne with dessert, because 117 years have to be toasted,” Mr Tavella said.

As for packing dozens of candles onto a cake, “we stopped trying a long time ago”, he added.

“Because even if we made big cakes, I’m not sure that she would have enough breath to blow them all out. You would need a fire extinguisher.”

Sister Andre’s birth name is Lucile Randon.

The Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people thought to be 110 or older, lists her as the second-oldest known living person in the world, behind an 118-year-old woman in Japan, Kane Tanaka.

Mr Tavella told French media earlier this week that Sister Andre had tested positive for coronavirus in mid-January but that she had had so few symptoms that she did not even realise she was infected. Her survival made headlines both in France and beyond.

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