Update: February 16 2014 marked the 112th birthday of Kathleen Hayes Snavely, the longest living woman in Irish history. Kathleen broke the previous record of 111 years and 327 days on January 8. Born in Feakle, Co. Clare in 1902, she immigrated to Syracuse in 1921 and still resides there in an elders home - which she moved to a few years ago . Her life story - from Ireland to America, where she and her first husband started their own business - follows.
Kathleen Hayes Snavely, is the longest-living Irish-born person in history. She is originally from Feakle, County Clare.
She surpasses the previous record holder, Katherine Plunkett (November 22, 1820 – October 14, 1932), an Irish aristocrat born in County Louth who was a highly regarded botanical illustrator, and whose story is equally fascinating, though extremely different.
Hard of hearing but clear of mind, Kathleen Snavely is a resident of The Centers at St. Camillus in Syracuse, NY where she immigrated to in 1921.
With a distaste for sensationalizing her age, she is, to date, opposed to talking to the press. The snippets of information that could be gleaned over the phone from the staff of St. Camillus create a portrait of a woman who is remarkably lucid: participating in daily activities from her wheelchair and still receiving visits from friends in the Syracuse area.
Strange as it must seem to Kathleen to be famous for simply being alive, she is already something of a celebrity on Internet message boards. Members of the 110 Club, a group dedicated to super centenarians, have been researching Snavely and her ancestry for months, unearthing her birth certificate and further biographical information.
Her nearest kin in the U.S. is the family of her step-children in Lancaster, PA from her second marriage, to a man named Jesse Snavely, Jr., whom she survives by a number of years. Her first husband and long-time business partner, Roxie E. Rollins, passed away in 1968 at the age of 66.
In Ireland, in her native town of Feakle, Co. Clare, she is still remembered by relatives. Peggy Hayes, whose late husband, Patrick Joseph, was related to Kathleen (making her also related to the famed Irish fiddler Martin Hayes of the same family), recalls hearing that she “left young and did well, and that she was from a long-living family.”
Kathleen Hayes was born on February 16, 1902 to Patrick and Ellen Hayes (née Moroney) in Feakle, Co. Clare. Her birth certificate lists her father as a “Farmer and Publican,” though local memory indicates he was more of the latter. Kathleen was the second of three girls. Her older sister, Mary Anne, was born in 1901, and her younger sister, Ellen, in 1909. The 1911 Census (which lists her sisters’ names as Anna May and Lena), states that the family was Catholic and that all members, aside from one-year-old Ellen, could read and write.
She may also have had a younger brother, though he has yet to be found in the local records. In the only known interview with Kathleen, a 2000 press release by Syracuse University announcing her donation of $1 million in memory of her first husband, Kathleen refers to an 88-year-old brother still living in Ireland.
It is not uncommon for people’s personal histories and memories to sometimes clash with the official record. A further example: in the same article from the Syracuse archive, Kathleen recalls working as a business apprentice in Limerick and Dublin before emigrating, while the manifest for the ship on which she traveled lists her as a “Domestic”.
On September 22, 1921, she boarded a ship called the Scythia in Cobh, Co. Cork. Even though the harbor city’s name had officially been returned in the year before, the manifest still lists it as Queenstown.
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