Jeralean, who was among a dozen children of Samuel and Amelia Jones Kurtz, grew up in the outskirts of Montrose, Georgia in western Laurens County, Georgia. Her grandfather, Andrew J. Kurtz, husband of Rachel Kurtz, was most likely a slave owned by Dr. William J. Kurtz, who owned nearly two dozen slaves during the Civil War.
Jeralean and her family moved to Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan during a vast migration of African-American farm workers who left Laurens County in the 1920s for Detroit, Michigan. That group includes the family of world champion boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ford Motor Company inventor and innovator, Claude Harvard.
Jeralean married Alfred Talley, who died in the 1980s. Although she was from large family, Jeralean had only one child, a daughter, Thelma Holloway, who is now seventy-five years old. She has three grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
As for Talley, she credits her God for her longevity. When asked by Congressman John Conyers as to what her secret to a long life was, she pointed upward and said, "The good Lord up above. If it wasn't for Him, none of us would be here."
Talley was almost 107 before she moved out of her home and into her daughter's home. She gave up bowling when she was a mere 104. And, she scored a very respectable 200 in her last game.
If all goes well, "Mother" Talley hopes to go on her annual fishing trip with friend Michael Kinloch, which has been scheduled for this Memorial Day weekend.
"Until recently Talley cooked for herself. She likes fish, squash and banana nut bread, "said her daughter, who added, "Every day she has to have her cup of coffee. The doctor wanted to put her on a diet, but she wouldn't listen. She doesn't believe in diets," Holloway said. "She eats whatever she wants to eat," Holloway told Candice Williams of The Detroit News.
"She loves to share wisdom with younger people," said Pastor Dana Darby of New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Inkster, where Talley attends.
With 114 years behind her Jeralean has many stories to tell. One of her favorites is the tale of her first and only attempt to drive a car.
"I tried that one time," in her 30s, she said.
"I didn't hit the right one to make it go forward and it went backwards," Talley told Elisha Anderson of The Detroit Free Press.
When her husband Alfred yelled at her, she opened the door and got out of the car and never drove again.
A verified supercentenarian is a person who is at least 110 years old and whose age is documented by at three or more reliable documents as determined by an international body - the most respected organization being the Gerontology Research Group.
The world's oldest verified person ever was a French woman Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days. Today, the oldest living person is a Japanese man, Jiroemon Kimura, who turned 116 on April 19th. Misao Okawa, who is 14 and one half months older than Talley, is the world's oldest living female. As of today, Jeralean Talley stands as the 92nd oldest verified living person since 1955 and is poised to move into 90th place within a week.
Supercentenarians, at least not fully documented ones, are nothing new to Laurens County. At lest ten former slaves, Madison Moore, Billy Coates, Tempy Stanley, Jack Robinson, Thomas Allen, Isaac Jackson, Frances Thompkins, Emily Horn, Daisy Wilson and Llewellyn Blackshear, reportedly lived well into their twelfth decades.
Isaac Jackson died in Montgomery County at the age of one hundred and twenty-two. Isaac was a former slave of Gov. George M. Troup of Laurens County, who lived on Troup's Valdosta Plantation in 1846. Isaac Jackson is credited with being the last surviving slave of President George Washington by the Hawkinsville Dispatch in its Oct. 19, 1876 edition.
Jack Robinson was born during the French and Indian War. He lived the better part of his life as a slave. In 1865, at the age of 111, Robinson gained his freedom. He died in Laurens County in December of 1872. Jack Robinson had survived many hardships during his lifetime, but in the end the Milledgeville Union Recorder stated that "tobacco was what cut him down in his prime." He was only 118 years old.
Aunt Daisy Wilson claimed that she was born in 1804, two years before Laurens County was created. According to the Macon Telegraph, there were white people who stated that she had authentic records showing that she was 117 years old in the summer of 1922. Daisy was born into slavery in North Carolina and purchased by John Manson, who brought her to Wilkinson County, where she lived well beyond her 100th birthday. If her claim could be substantiated, Daisy Wilson may have been the oldest woman in Laurens County history and one of the oldest in the State of Georgia.
Thomas Allen maintained that he was born in 1800 and was 114 years old just before he died on the plantation of Dr. W.B. Taylor, outside of Dexter, Georgia. Owned by the Giles family, the former slave was a native of Wilkinson County. Although his age cannot be documented by census records, Dr. Taylor, who knew the old man for many years, did not doubt the accuracy of his claims.
Happy Birthday Mrs. Jeralean! We hope you catch a big mess of fish.