New Jersey's oldest resident dies at 112 in Englewood
The state's oldest resident, who once credited her longevity to a daily dose of Miller High Life and Johnnie Walker Blue Label, died Thursday morning in her Englewood home, three weeks after turning 112.
Agnes Fenton, who had lived in Englewood since the 1950s, was given the unusual prescription of alcohol by her doctor in 1943 for a benign tumor. She kept it up for decades, before quitting drinking in the last few years as she began to eat less and was restricted to a wheelchair and attended by her nurses.
Born Agnes Jones on Aug. 1, 1905, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Fenton owned the Pal's Duck Inn restaurant in Tennessee, where she was one of the first black women to own a restaurant in the state. She moved north to Englewood with her second husband, Vincent Fenton, who died in 1970.
Fenton, who had no children, remained active into old age and was visited by members of St. Mark's Church in New York, of which she remained a member. She was looked after by neighbors, firefighters and Lamont Saunders of Teaneck, who knew Fenton as "Aunt Aggie." Saunders said she remained sharp up to the end, and while she might not remember whether she had taken her medication that day, she never lost who she was and was able to recall any part of her life in detail.
"When you would sit down with someone like that, listen to her story and the journey she took, you're talking to history," he said.
He recalled her long life, and noted that many of the issues that were prominent in her youth, such as racial discrimination, are still being dealt with today.
"You look at some of the problems we're having right now and imagine what she went through when she was young," he said.
Saunders, whose late mother was a dear friend of Fenton's, called her a legend.
"She will be missed, but she will never, ever be forgotten. She had no regrets, and she enjoyed life," he said. "God has called her home, and she will be a boss up there, because that's the kind of status she had down here."
When she turned 110, Fenton credited God as well as her daily medication of the champagne of beers and Johnnie Walker for her long life.
"He gave me a long life and a good life, and I have nothing to complain about," she told The Record in 2015. "You've got to have God in your life. Without God, you've got nothing." Jones was among 1,643 New Jersey residents who were at least 100 years old in 2010 — 280 men and 1,363 women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While their numbers are growing, centenarians made up a scant .02 percent of the population, or about one in every 5,350 state residents.
Fenton became the oldest living person in New Jersey when Adele Dunlap died at 114 in February.
Fenton's unusual longevity garnered her both local and national attention. She was one of 360 to 600 people on the planet to become a supercentenarian, based on estimates by the Gerontology Research Group and the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University School of Medicine. A supercentenarian is someone who has reached 110 years.
At the time, Englewood proclaimed Agnes Fenton Day to celebrate her milestone birthday, and she received letters from the governor and President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to congratulate her.
At 105, she became part of a study of human longevity at Boston University Medical Center, was interviewed by Diane Sawyer and had a portrait painted by Ahmad Stokes, who painted President Obama.
Saunders said the funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized, but he was speaking with the pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church about holding services there.