The oldest known human living in Europe and possibly the second-oldest person on the planet just celebrated her 117th birthday after beating COVID-19 and refusing the vaccine so someone else could have it.

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The French nun Sister André was one of 81 residents of a nursing home consisting of 88 elderly persons who contracted the virus, which claimed 11 of those lives.

“She kept telling me, ‘I’m not afraid of Covid because I’m not afraid of dying, so give my vaccine doses to those who need them,'” said the home’s communication manager David Tavella.

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Sister André was born in 1904 and survives two world wars, the 1918 flu pandemic, and 117 years’ worth of various human insanity to beat a thankfully mild case of COVID-19 to become the oldest known survivor of the illness.

She credits her long life mostly to red wine, which she enjoyed along with champagne, foie gras, and capon with fragrant mushrooms at her recent birthday party.

“All of it washed down with red wine, because she drinks red wine,” said Tavella. “It’s one of her secrets of longevity.”

She finished it all (after a nap) with her favorite dessert, baked Alaska.

“It made me very, very, very, very happy,” said Sister André, born Lucile Randon. “Because I met all those I love and I thank the heavens for giving them to me. I thank God for the trouble they went to.”

She also celebrated with a video call with her great-nephews and great-great nephews as well as a special Mass in her honor performed by a local bishop.

Sister André’s story quickly caught on as the world recovers from the latest and most deadly surge in the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines are being distributed to the most vulnerable. Tavella compared her to the Olympic flame, “because we all need a bit of hope at the moment.”

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The sister is reportedly not planning for her 118th birthday party, saying that she won’t be around for that one. However, Tavella says she’s been making that claim for 10 years now. She may yet live to become the world’s oldest known living human, who is currently 118-year-old Kane Tanaka of Japan.

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*First Published: February 16, 2021, 2:41 pm