Nation’s oldest veteran dies at 110

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 18, 2015


Emma “Big Mama” Didlake, the nation’s oldest veteran, died at Heartland of West Bloomfield Aug. 16. She was 110 years old.
A mother of five, Didlake outlived her children and her husband.

On July 17, Didlake was escorted by members of Talons Out Honor Flight and her granddaughter, Marilyn Horne, of Farmington Hills, to Washington, D.C., where she met President Barack Obama and visited various national memorials.

Talons Out Honor Flight President Bobbie Bradley said in a press release that Talons Out Honor Flight is honored to have spent the day with Didlake.

“Our hearts are heavy to say goodbye. However, in the short time we spent with her, Miss Emma impacted our group, and we’re so proud to have had the chance to honor her,” Bradley said in a press release.

After her death, Obama released a statement on Twitter, calling Didlake a “true trailblazer for generations of Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country.”

“I was humbled and grateful to welcome Emma to the White House last month, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to Emma’s family, friends, and everyone she inspired over her long and quintessentially American life,” Obama said in his Tweet.

Staff at Heartland declined to comment on Didlake’s passing.

Didlake joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1943 when she was 38 years old. Prior to her trip to Washington, D.C., Didlake spoke with members of the media and said that she joined the military to see what it was like. Didlake was one of 15 children and was the only one in her family to enter the military.

Didlake said there were a number of things that kept her busy while she was in the military. And when she wasn’t busy, Horne told the media, Didlake would read the Bible.

Horne said July 17 that she was glad Didlake had the opportunity to meet the president, and she was glad to be a part of it.
“I have a jewel here. This is a jewel right here,” Horne said July 17.