Fannie Forman Buten witnessed it all: the roaring ‘20s, two world wars, the women’s and civil rights movements, JFK, Elvis, airplanes, moon landings, MTV and the Internet. She was also believed to be the oldest living Jewish person in the world up until her death last week. Buten, who was born in Austria in 1899 and spent her final years in suburban Philadelphia, was 111 years old when she died of a stroke on September 24.
Buten was named the “oldest living” Jewish person “whose age had been verified,” Robert Young of the Gerontology Research Group told JTA. She was also the oldest person in Pennsylvania and 37th oldest in the world.
Over the course of her life, Buten was a daughter, wife and mother; a charitable volunteer and jokester. After graduating from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, she worked as a secretary, married and had children, and gained notoriety for her coconut milk sponge cakes — and for hitting a hole-in-one on the Green Valley Country Club golf course when she was in her 70s. Buten leaves behind 12 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and an historical perspective that few will ever fully understand. As Buten’s daughter, Marjorie Steinberg, told JTA, her mother “always lied about her age … so this [media attention] probably wouldn’t please her.”