Emma Didlake, believed to be the nation’s oldest veteran at 110, passed away Sunday at a long-term care facility in West Bloomfield, The Guardian reports today. The African-American veteran died just a month after meeting President Obama in the Oval Office.
Didlake was a 38-year-old wife and mother of five children when she signed up for the WMAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) in 1943. The oldest veteran served as a private and driver at stateside for seven months during the second World War.
Born in Alabama, the nation’s oldest veteran moved to Detroit with her family in 1944. Emma was fondly called “Big Mama” by her family and just recently moved with an assisted living family in suburban Detroit.
One of Emma’s granddaughters, the 62-year-old Marilyn Horne, talks fondly of her “Big Mama” on Monday.
I’m saddened she’s not here, but glad that she got an opportunity to do everything in her life that she wanted to do, including meet the president.
Obama released a statement in honor of the nation’s oldest veteran.
I was humbled and grateful to welcome Emma to the White House last month. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Emma’s family, friends, and everyone she inspired over her long and quintessentially American life.
In July, the 110-year-old veteran went on a special tour in Washington courtesy of Talons Out Honor Flight, a Kalamazoo-based branch of a national network that provides veterans with free one-day trips to Washington. In that trip, Didlake visited the Women’s Memorial, a site dedicate to women who served in the military. After touring the White House, the veteran visited the World War II Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. The veteran concluded the tour by seeing the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
Of course, the highlight of the tour is when the veteran got to sit down with Obama in the Oval Office. Wearing a blue suit and red sneakers, with hands folded primly on her lap, Emma sat on her wheelchair next to the President as he sang her praises worthy of the nation’s oldest then-living woman veteran, according to Detroit Free Press.
It’s a great reminder of not only the sacrifices the greatest generation made on our behalf but also the kind of trailblazing that our women veterans made, African American veterans who helped to integrate our Armed Services.
We are very, very proud of them.
As the nation’s oldest veteran, Didlake was already hard of hearing and didn’t talk much in her final years. But when asked by her granddaughter Marilyn if the visit with Obama was “fantastic,” the face of the oldest veteran broke out in a smile and said, “Yeah.”
The previously recognized oldest veteran, Lucy Coffey, passed away at 108, as reported by Inquisitr last March.
[Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]