I had the privilege to meet Jim Vaupel a few times in my career. Two of them happened when I was a junior scholar in the U.S. I was an enthusiastic young demographer, anxious to share the results of my research on Hispanic adult mortality. He was extremely kind and patient and showed genuine interest in listening to me and giving feedback. The Max Planck Institute had just moved to Rostock, and he thought that having a new Latin American young demographer would be important. So, he offered me the Sergio Camposterga Cruz Fellowship. Although I could not move to Germany, receiving a job offer from him made a lot of difference in my life!
Years later, I was doing some initial research on the oldest-old population in Brazil. There was a workshop on supercentenarians in Europe, and he managed for me to attend. The focus was on countries with high-quality data. In Brazil, many people claim to be a supercentenarian. However, the validation of the ages of alleged cases is almost impossible. I shared my experience of verifying the age of a Brazilian woman, 114 years older. It was a rare case: the oldest person in the world at that point, born in Brazil, with all the required documentation. Also, I brought several slides with indirect demographic estimates showing the inaccurate reporting of age in Brazil and the probable evolution of the population 100 years and older. Yet, I was embarrassed to be there since I did not have a complete database of real cases like the other researchers. Jim showed a lot of support. He acknowledged my effort to measure the centenarian population using insufficient data and advised me to continue doing research on the centenarians in Latin America despite all the limitations. Thanks to his words, I am still working on the topic, and I have made significant progress since then.
Jim was an extraordinary scientist and human being. I feel lucky and grateful to have had the chance to meet him.