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The common factor these Centenarians and Supercentenarians all share

Updated on September 6, 2011

The following folks all lived to be at least 100 years old. They were born in different parts of the world and came from quite varying backgrounds, however, they do share one common factor. This factor is something that happens to be common among people who have super longevity. While the medical world does know about it, it is still something generally downplayed in the today's health community because it goes against the grain of what is currently considered appropriate life choices.

Read about these longevity setters and see if you can guess what the common factor is. I promise, it won't be difficult!

Longevity setters as certified by Western records

Born Nathan Birnbaum, he made his debut in vaudeville and went on to be a comedy writer, stand-up comic, film writer, TV star and film actor. He is best known today as the lovable comedian George Burns, who played the title role in the uplifting Oh, God comedy films. And he smoked cigars all his adult life. Mr. Burns lived to the age of 100. His family and friends buried him with three brand new stogies in his pocket.

George Burns
George Burns

Winnie Langley gained celebrity on her 100th birthday, when she became known as Britain’s oldest smoker. She had been smoking for 85 years and had beat more than one bout of cancer. Winnie only stopped smoking when her eyesight prevented her from lighting a match; and she survived the forced quitting by barely a year.

Winnie Langley
Winnie Langley

Arthur Langran was a British soldier during WWII and a lifelong whiskey drinker. Additionally, he began smoking at the age of 20 and had smoked nearly 300,000 cigs a day by his 100th birthday in 2010. Arthur Langran is still smoking nearly a year later.

Arthur Langran as a young man
Arthur Langran as a young man

Renowned ventriloquist Senor Wences ( real name Wenceslao Moreno) enjoyed cigarettes and the partaking of alcohol. Wences had performed with such notable entertainers as Danny Kaye and Martin & Lewis, and made his last performing tour in his 90’s. He was 103 when he died.

Senor Wences appearing on The Muppets Show, 1980
Senor Wences appearing on The Muppets Show, 1980

Marie Ellis of Britain lived to the ripe age of 105, having smoked since she was 15 years old. Although smoking was officially prohibited in the nursing home where Marie spent her last years, the staff was compelled by her doctor to provide her with a private smoking area. When Marie passed away the same staff placed an ashtray-shaped wreath in her coffin. The much beloved Marie was also buried with a pack of her favorite brand of cigarettes in her hands.

George Cook of Britain was born at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1889. George joined the army in 1914 and fought at Ypres and The Somme. Despite being wounded twice George finished the war and took a career in gardening. His career lasted 70 years and earned him numerous awards from the Royal Horticultural Soceity. A smoker since the age of 12, George didn’t kick the habit until he was 90. He lived on to celebrate his 108th birthday.

Despite Adolf Hitler’s hatred for cigarettes, the insane Fuhrer was a big fan of Dutch actor and smoker Johannes Heesters. Likewise, the thespian once remarked that Hitler was “a good guy” and entertained friendships within the SS. In 2010 the prolific Heesters announced he was giving up smoking for his wife, 46 years his junior. Heesters was 106 years at the time. Hitler should be resting a little happier now that his favorite actor has given up smoking; although Heesters’ health has subsequently declined.

On celebrating her birthday in 2010 Helen Faith Keane Reichert told interviewers that she attributed her longevity to avoiding things she hates, which includes: salads, vegetables and anything to do with a healthy lifestyle. Helen is a certified psychologist and hosted one of the very first talk shows on television, The Helen Faith Keane Show. Her show was infamous at the time for the range of topics, such as breast cancer and liberal arts. She went on to make her first world-around-the-world sight-seeing trip at the age of 84 and is known to friends and family by the nickname, “Happy”. Helen celebrates her 109th birthday this November 11.

Helen Faith Keane Reichert today
Helen Faith Keane Reichert today

This past January Ignacio Cubilla Banos celebrated his birthday, and he definitely had a lot to celebrate as he has 11 children, 40 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Bano celebrated his birthday with a large cake and one of his favorite things: a Cuban cigar. Banos is 111 years old.

Ignacio Cubilla Banos
Ignacio Cubilla Banos

Danish-American Christian Mortensen was a cigar smoker until his death. On his 115th birthday he is quoted as saying, “Friends, a good cigar, drinking lots of good water, no alcohol, staying positive, and lots of singing will keep you alive for a long time."

Christian Mortensen
Christian Mortensen

Marie-Louise Meilleur was a Canadian woman who lived to be 117 years old. At the time of Marie’s death she and her son lived in the same nursing home, and her oldest daughter was a tender 90 years old. Marie began smoking early in life and called herself an “avid smoker”.

Marie-Louise Meilleur
Marie-Louise Meilleur

Japanese farmer Shigechiyo Izumi put off smoking for many years; not taking up the habit until he was 70 years old. His attributed his long life to “the Gods, Buddha and the Sun.” Mr. Izumi died in 1986 at the age of 120

Shigechiyo Izumi
Shigechiyo Izumi

Jeanne Louise Calment was born in Arles, France on February 21, 1875. She was a petite woman, very active and considered attractive even to the last days of her life. In her childhood Jeanne had met famed artist Vincent Van Gogh, whom she described as ugly, dirty and impolite. As an adult Jeanne partook of port wine every day. She also used olive oil generously in her meals and in daily facials. She was a confessed chocolate addict and an unapologetic heavy smoker. Today she is remembered as having enjoyed the longest confirmed and documented life span of any human in today’s western hemisphere. Jeanne was 122 years old when she died.

Jeanne Louise Calment at 20
Jeanne Louise Calment at 20
Jeanne Louise Calment in 1996
Jeanne Louise Calment in 1996

Longevity setters not verfied in Western world but confirmed by documentation in their native lands

In 1997 Lebanese farmer, Ali Mohammed Hussein, celebrated his 135th birthday. He was a huge yogurt fan and cigarette smoker and could count 93 direct descendants. He could also have been called a cradle robber as his wife, Amsha, was a mere 90 years old at the time. His age was confirmed by Lebanon national records.

In 1998 the Scottish Daily Record reported the story of then-still much alive Nepal native, Narayan Chaudhari. According to Nepal official records Narayan had been born in 1856, during the Crimean War. Narayan had only left his small village twice during his lifetime. The first away trip came as a pilgrimage to India in the 1930’s. Narayan's second venture outside the village came on his 141th birthday when he went to capital, Kathmandu, to accept an award from the King of Nepal for his “outstanding service” to the country.

At the time of the article’s publication Mr. Chaudhari had outlived two wives and even a son who had died at the age of 87. His oldest grandchild was at the time 67 years old and his youngest great-great grandchild only two years old. Mr. Chaudhari attributed his longevity to the regular consumption of pork and rice, along with the daily smoking of raw tobacco from a pipe.

141 years old, folks, 141 years old!


Submit a Comment
  • Anita Hasch profile image

    Anita Hasch 

    2 years ago from Port Elizabeth

    Hi Beth. The comment on sex was meant as a joke. As far as red wine is concerned I drink twice a year, birthday and old year's eve. However, after doing research on resveratrol, I would love to drink a glass of red wine every evening. Unfortunately I know from experience that I do not have the willpower to stop at one glass, so I will continue to obtain my resveratrol from grapes, berries, peanut butter etc.

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    2 years ago from Tennesee

    Anita, sex is definitely great exercise! And I wish I could drink red wine -absolutely love it!- but it doesn't like me, lol. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Anita Hasch profile image

    Anita Hasch 

    2 years ago from Port Elizabeth

    Super hub Beth, I very much doubt that smoking kept them healthy so long. However, they all seem to share one other common factor, being positive. A positive outlook on life is needed to stay happy, young or old. Then, a few of the centenarians enjoyed a glass of wine. It has been discovered that, especially red wine contains 'Resveratrol" which have many health benefits. I wrote a hub on resveratrol, but I think my blog on resveratrol at blogger explains more. And of course I could not help notice that a few of your centenarians seemed to have very active sex lives. Maybe I should do some research on that. Really enjoyed your hub.

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    5 years ago from Tennesee

    manatita44, going by the records I found, yes it is. Thanks much for dropping in!

  • manatita44 profile image


    5 years ago from london

    Very interesting Hub. Some I know off. Is the 141 authentic? Thanks for sharing.

  • profile image

    Hubert Williams 

    6 years ago

    My grandmother would have said "They might have all lived to be 150 if they had not smoked". Her husband, who also was my grandfather, hmmm, what a concept, smoked a pipe and enjoyed good corn whiskey and White Lightnin' which he made himself. She outlived him though. she was a nonsmoker and hated alcohol. Both died in their seventies. I smoked 5 packs of cigarettes a day for thirty five years before quitting ten years ago. I have emphysema.

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    7 years ago from Tennesee

    Hi editorsupremo,

    I'm glad they were compassionate to Mary Ellis where she lived, and yes the ashtray was a very cool way to "send her off"!

    Ah of the finest drinks under the heavens.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • editorsupremo profile image


    7 years ago from London, England

    What a wonderful hub Beth. It's amazing how these Centenarians and Supercentenarians' longevity can be attributed to smoking which is now seen as a scourge on society. I love the story about Mary Ellis and the tribute in the shape of an ashtray and the wonderful George Burns who is known for his love of cigars.

    Although I want to live long and have all my faculties I don't think I'll be taking up smoking any time soon to preserve my life, maybe a wee dram of brandy every now and then!!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    8 years ago from Tennesee

    WillStarr, sounds to me like that's probably what got her to 100 :) Thanks much for sharing!

  • WillStarr profile image


    8 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    My paternal grandmother was scolded all the time for eating unhealthy foods, especially those with high fat contents. She made all her cookies, pastries, and anything else that called for shortening, with pig lard. They were delicious!

    But alas, they were right because she did die.

    She was 100.


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