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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal's Oldest Person Dies at 112

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Isabel Gomes Sarmento on her 111th birthday in 2021


Isabel Gomes Sarmento, the oldest known person in Portugal, died at age 112 in a hospital in Amarante, Porto District, according to Gerontology Wiki, though her roots were in the municipality of Moimenta da Beira, Viseu District, in the parish of Vila da Rua, more than 100 kilometers southeast.

The supercentenarian passed on January 12, 16 days after her birthday. She had been hospitalized for four days after a stroke, reported Observador (January 13). She was the oldest known person in Portugal, following the death of 113-year-old Encarnaçao Sousa on July 21, 2022.

Born in Brazil in 1910 to Portuguese emigrants, she moved at age nine to Portugal, where she became a seamstress.

Devoted to Our Lady of Fatima, she, like the three shepherd witnesses, also was a child during the reported apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, in 1917.


Sarmento on December 27, 2022, her 112th birthday with her family


On the occasion of her 111th birthday on December 27, 2021, Moimenta da Beira municipality interviewed Isabel Gomes Sarmento and relatives:

“With a sweet look, she seems to be surprised by the arrival of strangers asking her questions. But soon, the smile lights up her ageless face. At the house of the youngest daughter and son-in-law in Vila da Rua, in the municipality of Moimenta da Beira, in a manor house as old as its occupant, everything that has passed is not summed up in a text. Isabel Sarmento is living history. More than a century shaped in a posture of someone who no longer fears anything.

“After a long, very long existence, she seems to have forgiven herself and the Universe for the pitfalls, the misfortunes, the mistakes, the losses, everything duly shelved in the past, as only time can do. Her face is, therefore, calm, a joke here and there, and, from time to time, a little smile appears in the corner of her mouth. The centenarian hears badly, but it is clear that she is attentive.

“While everything in the world and in the country was happening, from pandemics, wars, changes in regimes, climate catastrophes of all kinds, events that history documents and that it marks to this day, Isabel Sarmento accompanied the rhythm and the collateral damage by the hardness of the times.

“Currently, she takes turns between the houses of her daughters, Otilia Loureiro (in Vila da Rua) and Gorete in Amarante. The other daughter, Maria Candida, the eldest, is in Brazil. But Isabel Sarmento doesn’t take much work. Not so long ago, she loved pizza, lasagna, foods with cream. Not fish. And she likes to be a leader, always. Coffee is still a bane, and she can still drink port wine if it’s not too strong. Secrets to longevity? Everyone wanted to know. Stubbornness? Luck? Genes? She went to the doctor twice, once for a recent fall that resulted in a broken hip.”


Cruzeiro do Sul, Brazil, in 1906, two years after it was founded, and where the supercentenarian was born in 1910


Isabel Gomes Sarmento was born on December 27, 1910, in Cruzeiro do Sul municipality, in the state of Acre, Brazil. She was the daughter of Ayres Gomes Sarmento, a native of Prados, Moimenta da Beira, and Maria Candida Gomes. Her parents had married in Rua before emigrating to Brazil, where her father, Ayres, worked as a carpenter. The family had a big house in the northwest of the Amazon rainforest. Isabel’s brother, Francisco, also was born in Brazil. The three oldest siblings, Manuel, Carlos and Luis, remained in Portugal, living with an aunt.

Isabel Gomes Sarmento attended school, enough to learn to read and write, according to Gerontology Wiki. The Momenta da Beira municipality interview explained:

“Then, she didn’t go on because her children needed her help. She learned to sew, crochet, do housework. She liked to dance, to talk. She had a good heart. However, no one cheered her on. In the ups and downs of everyday life, she met the man of her life: Antonio Gomes Cardia, with whom she had five children: four girls and a boy.

She was a seamstress, and he was a tailor, who later worked as a bricklayer, first with an uncle and then with a nephew. The interview continued:

“They made clothes and went from fair to fair, in a wagon, where they exchanged clothes for goods. They also worked to order for other, more solemn occasions.”

Sadly, two of her five children died young. Ayres, who was named after her father, died at age four, and Ester died at 18 after suffering paralysis caused by a stroke.

“My mother suffered a lot with Ester’s death,” said Otilia Loureiro, the youngest of the daughters. “My sister seemed to have a gift because she knew what was going to happen to her. She predicted her death.”

Her husband, Antonio, died at age 73. Her daughters, Otilia and Gorete, took her to Switzerland, but she did not adapt and returned to Portugal.

“She wanted her home, her friends, her corner, mourning at the place of her husband’s grave. . . . She receives visits from her cousin, her godmother, her niece. She never lacks for friends, and she makes wraps for A, B and C, and when she watches television, it’s as if nothing else exists.

“The ‘addiction’ was such that when the family visited her, coming from Switzerland, she interrupted meals and went to watch her favorite programs, to the astonishment of those who stayed at the table and who now laugh about it. Only when Otilia and, later, Gorete and her husband, Amandio Dinis, returned from Switzerland did Isabel leave home. Her little corner was no longer safe. ‘My mother started to get scared and, sometimes she even called at night to say that she heard noises.’ It was from then on that the daughters began to receive her in turn.

“The stubbornness of other times was softening. However, there are situations in which she always grumbles. She never liked, for example, riding in a car. ‘There are more cars than people! There are more houses than people, she repeated. Classics by Isabel Sarmento.”

Besides her daughters, Isabel Gomes Sarmento also is survived by 16 grandchildren and great-grandchildren and by one great-great granddaughter, reported Moimenta da Beira municipality.

Isabel Gomes Sarmento was buried at the cemetery in Vila da Rua.

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