Emma Didlake was believed by some to be the nation’s oldest living veteran, and was given the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama inside the Oval Office last month. Ms. Didlake passed last Sunday at the age of 110, leaving behind a long line of service.
Didlake was born March 13, 1905 in the town of Boligee, Ala. Her family later relocated to Kentucky. In 1922, Didlake married and later had five children. In 1943, during World War II, Didlake took a bold step by entering the Army. It was a significant move as many women at the time were content with being just housewives. Didlake joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps as a private and driver.
After the war, Didlake’s family settled in Detroit after she was discharged from service. Didlake joined the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and marched alongside several civil rights leaders including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
According to several recent accounts leading up to her July meeting with President Obama, Didlake says she had no idea she was doing anything that would consider her a pioneer. Her daughter, Marilyn Horne, told a Fox television affiliate in Detroit that her mother just wanted to “do something different” by joining the Army.
Didlake has been honored for service and has been awarded the Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. In 2013, the NAACP awarded her with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Didlake’s visit with Obama was arranged by the Talons Out Honor Flight organization of Michigan, a branch of the national Honor Flight organization, which helps veterans take free, one-day trips to visit the Washington, D.C. and all of its monuments.
President Obama issued a public statement regarding Didlake’s passing, calling her a trailblazer and remarking that she lived a “long and quintessentially American life.”
According to a recent newspaper report, Didlake attributed her long life to eating lots of fruits and vegetables while abstaining from meat. She also had a ritual where she soaked nine golden raisins in gin overnight and ate them the next afternoon.
(Photo: White House)