hamish harding nana baubles lee redmond split image

There have been many tragic losses from the Guinness World Records family this year.

We’ve said goodbye to a number of record holders over the last 12 months, and we’ve been proud to share each of their stories with you.

As the year comes to an end, we’re paying tribute to the record breakers we lost in 2023…

Oldest person living

In January, Sister André (born Lucile Randon in France on 11 February 1904) died at the age of 118.

She had been confirmed as the oldest person living (female) and the oldest person living in April 2022.

She was the second-oldest French person and second-oldest European person ever recorded in history.

And after dedicating much of her life to religious service, Sister André was also the oldest nun living.

Most painful insect sting

March saw the death of legendary scientist Dr Justin Schmidt at the age of 75.

The American entomologist, who was nicknamed “The King of Sting”, carried out some very brave research to determine which insect’s sting hurts the most.

He allowed a number of species to sting him and rated his pain on a four-point scale before publishing a detailed pain index in 1983.

His sacrifice means we now all know the bullet ant has the most painful insect sting – a 4.0+ on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

Most tattooed senior citizen (male)

In March, we said goodbye to colourful character Charles “Chuck” Helmke (USA), who had been the world’s most tattooed senior citizen (male) since 2016.

chuck helmke most tattooed senior man

He had inkings covering 97.5% of his body.

Chuck died at the age of 81 at his home in Florida, surrounded by his loving children and partner Charlotte Guttenberg.

Oldest drag queen

We also lost the world’s oldest drag queen in March.

Walter W. Cole, who performed under the name “Darcelle XV”, died at the age of 92 from natural causes.

He first earned his record in 2016 at the age of 85 years 273 days and was a much-beloved character in Portland, Oregon, USA, where he was the proud owner and operator of club Darcelle XV Showplace. 

Fastest time to recite a scene from a play/movie (English)

Iconic British TV presenter Paul O’Grady passed away in March at the age of 67.

Paul rose to fame as drag queen Lily Savage before transitioning to hosting TV shows as himself.

Many records were set by others on the set of his The New Paul O’Grady Show in London, but he also held one himself.

On his show in 2007, he recited a scene from 1980s sitcom Hi-de-Hi – a script of 300 words – in 56 seconds – the fastest time to recite a scene from a play/movie (English).

Oldest competitive powerlifter (female)

The world’s oldest competitive powerlifter (female), Edith Murway-Traina, died in March at the age of 101.

The USA native had lived by the motto ‘Active, Alert & Agile’ so it came as no surprise to her loved ones when she took up weight lifting in her nineties.

She had a natural talent for it and soon began competing, quickly making a name for herself within the senior powerlifting community in Florida.

Longest running character portrayed by the same actor

Legendary drag queen Barry Humphries, AKA “Dame Edna Everage” died in April at age 89.

The Australian performer first began entertaining audiences as cheeky Dame Edna in 1955 up until her final appearance in 2022, earning the record for longest running character portrayed by the same actor.

Largest collection of Christmas bauble ornaments

April saw the loss of Sylvia Pope, better known as “Nana Baubles”.

Nana baubles shows her collection

The owner of the largest collection of Christmas bauble ornaments, from Swansea, Wales, died at the age of 80.

Sylvia had around 1,760 baubles in her collection and would display them every Christmas, hanging them from every inch of the ceiling.

Longest nose on a living person (male)

In May, we said goodbye to Mehmet Özyürek, the proud owner of the longest nose on a living person (male).

Mehmet, from Türkiye, became a well-known character and often spoke about how he felt “blessed” to have a record-breaking nose.

It measured 8.8 cm (3.46 in) from the bridge to the tip, which is the length of a playing card.

Oldest living triplets (mixed)

Betty Woolf, the last surviving of the oldest living triplets (mixed) died in June at the age of 96.

Betty had set the record alongside her sister Minna Passman and her brother Joseph Hocky in 2020 when they were aged 93 years 174 days.

The siblings were born in New York City, USA, in 1927, and despite moving to different parts of the country, they got together for their birthday every year.

Fastest circumnavigation via both Poles by aeroplane

Famous explorer Hamish Harding was lost in June in the Titan submersible tragedy.

hamish harding delivers a speech

The UK adventurer was 58 years old.

He had been on board the OceanGate vessel alongside the company’s founder and CEO Stockton Rush, diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, businessman Shahzada Dawood and his teenage son Suleman, when disaster struck.

Hamish had earned three Guinness World Records titles, including the fastest circumnavigation via both Poles by aeroplane, which he set in 2019 in a time of 46 hrs 40 mins 22 secs alongside Captain Jacob Bech (Denmark), Captain Jeremy Ascough (South Africa), Captain Yevgen Vasylenko (Ukraine) and Qatar Executive at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.

Oldest person to release an album of new material

Legendary crooner Tony Bennett died in July at the age of 96.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016 and had gone public with his illness a few years later.

Tony broke many Guinness World Records titles throughout his illustrious career, including oldest person to release an album of new material when he released Love For Sale alongside Lady Gaga.

He was 95 years 58 days old when it went on sale.

Fastest speed by an electric mobility-vehicle (prototype)

Jason Liversidge, who set speed records in his wheelchair, passed away aged just 47 in August.

The UK dad was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2013 and was left paralysed from the neck down.

But that didn’t stop him becoming a daredevil with a need for speed.

Among other records, Jason set the fastest speed by an electric mobility-vehicle (prototype) in 2020 after achieving a speed of 66.826 mph (107.546 km/h).

Longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever (female)

In December, we said goodbye to Lee Redmond (USA), who was the long-time holder of the record for longest fingernails on a pair of hands ever (female).

lee redmond holds up her fingernails

Lee’s nails were a total length of 8.65 m (28 ft 4.5 in) before she tragically lost them in a car crash.

She had set herself the challenge of seeing how long she could grow her nails before they began twisting out of shape, like many famous long fingernails had.

She stopped filing and cutting them in 1979 but took such good care of them that they never twisted and instead grew into long, beautiful arches.