Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Mildred Clements JaMais

Mildred JaMais, Florida's second-oldest person and mother of Connie Haines

CLEARWATER — Mildred JaMais, who was believed to be the 18th-oldest person in the United States and the second-oldest Floridian, died Thursday. She was 110 and would have turned 111 in February.

In Florida, only Onezima "Onie" Ponder of Ocala, who is 111, was older at the time of Ms. JaMais' death, according to the Gerontology Research Group, a Los Angeles agency that tracks "supercentenarians" for Guinness World Records.

Ms. JaMais' friends and relatives say her upbeat disposition contributed to her longevity. Her favorite snack was KFC and black coffee. Up into her late 80s, she taught neighbors the jitterbug.

She enjoyed another distinction that may have kept her alive: She was the proud stage mother to Connie Haines, a perky big band singer who had a dozen hit songs with Frank Sinatra. Haines died in 2008 at 87.

Ms. JaMais was born Mildred Clements in Savannah, Ga., on Feb. 15, 1899. At the time, William McKinley was the U.S. president. The Spanish-American War had just ended, and the Philippine-American War was about to begin.

The daughter of two English immigrants who claimed Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain, as a relative, she and her siblings grew up attending private schools.

A creased photo from 1918 shows her in flapper attire next to a uniformed Andre Augusta JaMais They married that year. She stayed with JaMais, a veterinarian, a few years before divorcing. That was long enough to produce two talented daughters.

Barbara, the youngest, grew into a coloratura soprano who studied at the Metropolitan Opera House. The eldest, Yvonne Marie, was born a star. At 5, she placed second in a national Charleston dance competition. She had her own radio show at 10, and was hired by orchestra leader Harry James in New York at 16.

Ms. JaMais worked as a telephone operator to support her daughters, and taught voice and dance.

"Like many of the stage mothers, she probably had a rare talent herself," said Roseanne DeMarco, a friend of the family.

James ordered Yvonne Marie to adopt a stage name. She chose Connie Haines. Back home in Georgia sitting by the radio, her mother thought someone else must have taken her daughter's place — until she heard Haines sing.

"As soon as she heard the voice, she knew," said DeMarco, 56. "She was angry and confused."

By 1939, Haines was churning out duets with Frank Sinatra, including hits like On the Sunny Side of the Street, What Is This Thing Called Love? and Let's Get Away From It All.

Ms. JaMais accompanied her daughter from Las Vegas to the Pocono Mountains and places in between for 40 years while living mostly in California. She never remarried.

"I think she lived through Connie in some ways," DeMarco said. "She had a good life. Maybe not such a good marriage, and she wanted to dedicate herself to Connie."

Ms. JaMais knew many of the top entertainers her daughter worked with, but rarely sprinkled their names into conversation, niece Alyce Carlson said. Ms. JaMais and her daughter moved to Clearwater together in 1985. She kept a tidy efficiency at Baycrest Apartments and reveled in simple pleasures.

"She loved her black coffee and she loved KFC," said Carlson, 70. Ms. JaMais drank the occasional glass of wine but never smoked, she said.

She spent the last 10 years of her life at the Madonna Ptak Morton Plant Rehabilitation Center. Haines serenaded her mother at birthdays through 2006. Her death in 2008 due to myasthenia gravis changed Ms. JaMais, DeMarco said. After Haines' death, Ms. JaMais sometimes told others that she saw her daughter standing by the window.

Ms. JaMais is not on the database of the Gerontology Research Group. No family member ever submitted her name for consideration.

But prior to her death, she was among the world's oldest people. As of Jan. 7, the group lists just 50 people who were born before Feb. 15, 1899, making Ms. JaMais the 51st oldest person in the world before she died. She was the 18th-oldest American, according to the group's official list, and the second-oldest Floridian behind Ponder. All but two of the 76 listed supercenternarians are women.

She comes up just short of making a database kept by the group of the top 650 known human life spans of all time.

"I think she's a lock for the top 750 based on current knowledge," said Louis Epstein, an investigator for the group.

The world's oldest living person is Kama Chinen of Okinawa, Japan, who is 114. Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122, is thought to hold the record for human longevity.

While surviving beyond 100 is no longer considered unusual and hundreds have made it to 110, going much beyond 110 is a different matter. About 99 percent die before reaching 115.

DeMarco broke the news on Thursday to Barbara JaMais, Ms. JaMais' other daughter. Barbara, who lives in a nursing home in California, replied that this meant her mother and Connie were now together and added, "The two of them were always so close."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or

CORRECTION: Barbara JaMais is the youngest daughter of Mildred JaMais. Her sister Connie Haines is the eldest. Earlier versions of this story used in print and online misstated the birth order.


Mildred Clements JaMais

Born: Feb. 15, 1899.

Died: Jan. 7, 2010.

Survivors: Daughter Barbara JaMais; nieces and nephews; one granddaughter; and one grandson.

Mildred JaMais, Florida's second-oldest person and mother of Connie Haines 01/08/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 9:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022


    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?


    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:


    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off


    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.