World's oldest Estonian dies in the US at age 108

Candle. Source: Ülo Josing/ERR

Illa Toompuu, the confirmed oldest Estonian worldwide, has died at the age of 108, regional daily Tartu Postimees reports. Illa Toompuu went to live in the United States in 1949, settling in Lakewood, New Jersey, from the mid-1970s.

She had held the official title of world's oldest living Estonian for the last seven months of her life, following the passing of Marta Kivi last August, Postimees reports (link in Estonian), with later-life achievements including learning to drive, something she had not done as a younger woman.

Born in St. Petersburg in 1912 at a time when Estonia was still a part of the Russian Empire, and graduating from high school in Narva, Illa Toompuu celebrated her 108th birthday on October 26 last year, and was an active member of the Estonian diaspora after crossing the Atlantic in 1949, with her two sons, having spent several years in the Kempten displaced persons camp in West Germany, later working as an accountant and bank clerk in New York City.

Lakewood is home to a significant Väliseestlased community and hosts an Estonian House, school and other facilities.

She is survived by one of her two sons, Aadu Karemaa (85), formerly of the U.S. Air Force, Postimees reports, while the identity of the current oldest living Estonian is yet to be established.

The full Postimees article (in Estonian) on Illa Toompuu's life is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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