(CBS/AP) Eugenie Blanchard, a nun who was considered the world's oldest person, died in the French Caribbean island of St. Barts on Thursday. She was 114.
Bruyn Hospital director Pierre Nuty said she died early Thursday at the hospital, where she had lived in the geriatric ward since 1980.
Cousin Armelle Blanchard, her cousin, told The Associated Press that while Blanchard could no longer talk, she had seemed to be in relatively good health.
"When you talked to her, she would smile," she said. "We don't know if she understood us."
Blanchard was born in St. Barts on Feb. 16, 1896, and lived much of her life in a convent in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao before returning home in the 1950s. She was the last survivor of a family of 13 brothers and sisters.
Blanchard earned the nickname "Sweets," although the origin of the nickname is unclear. Victorin Lurel, who represents St. Barts in France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, said it was due to the way she treated others. Her great-nephew told Agence France Presse that she would offer sweets and candy to local children to entice them to attend religious readings.
Blanchard worked hard from an early age, her cousin recalled.
"At that time, life was very hard in St. Barts," she said. "She tended the garden and took care of the animals."
After returning from Curacao, she lived in a quaint house in the Merlette district with a cat as her only companion, Blanchard said.
Her great-nephew Daniel Blanchard, a former mayor of Saint-Barthelemy, told AFP he believed she lived so long because "she had decided to give her virginity to God".
Blanchard became the world's oldest person after Kama Chinen of Japan died on May 2, 2010, just a week before her 115th birthday, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks people of extremely old age.
The Guinness Book of World Records also recognized Blanchard as the world's oldest person.