Gerontology Wiki
Theophilus May
Theophilus May
May at the age of 109.
Birth: 5 January 1861
St Giles in the Wood, England, UK
Death: 2 December 1971
Middleton, Ohio, USA
Age: 110 years, 331 days
Country: United Kingdom UK United StatesUSA

Theophilus May (5 January 1861 – 2 December 1971) was a British-American teacher and letter carrier who received substantial media attention towards the end of his life due to his longevity. His claim of being a supercentenarian has not been verified by the foremost authority on age validation, the Gerontology Research Group (GRG).

Early life

Theophilus May was born on 5 January 1861 in the small town of Great Torrington in St Giles in the Wood, southwest of Barnstaple in Devonshire County, England, United Kingdom. His parents were Francis and Fanny May, and he had 13 siblings in total. All of them eventually lived to be between 70-90 years old. He worked as a teacher in England, although it is unclear which subject(s) he taught.

Around 1883, May married Louisa Hodges. The couple emigrated to the United States in the late 1800s, with various years having been reported such as 1888, 1889 & 1891. They had two children in total, one son and one daughter. His wife died somewhere between 1900 and 1910. After he emigrated, he started working as a letter carrier in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1894. He had become a naturalized citizen of the United States the preceding year. He eventually retired in 1926 at the age of 65.


At the age of 98, May moved in with his grandson, whose wife was a nurse. At the age of 104, he became bedridden. On the occasion of his 105th birthday, it was mentioned that he had poor hearing. He revealed on his 107th birthday that "an ounce of whiskey with water each night" helped him sleep.

When May was 110 years old, he read a lot and took interest in the world around him. He was completely deaf at the time, but didn’t want an operation that would restore his hearing due to the high cost. He was a fan of the baseball team Cincinnati Reds. He smoked pipe daily, even as a supercentenarian. His longevity attracted attention from the media as well as the then-American president Richard Nixon, who sent a telegram on his 110th birthday.


May died in Middleton, Ohio, United States, on 2 December 1971 at the age of 110 years, 331 days. He was reported to be the oldest person in the state at the time of his death. Retrospectively, he may have even been the oldest man in the world, but the gathered data from that time period is yet too sparse to conclude such with a high degree of certainty.