LOS ANGELES —Gertrude Baines, who lived to be the world’s oldest person on a steady diet of crispy bacon, fried chicken and ice cream, died Friday at a nursing home. She was 115.
Baines, who remarked last year that she enjoyed life so much she wouldn’t mind living another 100 years, died in her sleep, said Emma Camanag, administrator at Western Convalescent Hospital.
The centenarian likely suffered a heart attack, said her longtime physician, Dr. Charles Witt. An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death.
“I saw her two days ago, and she was just doing fine,” Witt told The Associated Press. “She was in excellent shape. She was mentally alert. She smiled frequently.”
Born in 1894 in Shellman, Ga., Baines claimed the title of the world’s oldest living person when a 115-year-old woman, Maria de Jesus, died in Portugal in January.
“I’m glad I’m here. I don’t care if I live a hundred more,” Baines said in November after casting her vote for Barack Obama in the presidential election. “I enjoy nothing but eating and sleeping.”
The oldest person in the world is now Kama Chinen, 114, who lives in Japan, according to Dr. L. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks claims of extreme old age. Chinen was born May 10, 1895, Coles said.
The oldest person who has ever lived isJeanne-Louise Calment, according to Coles. She was 122 when she died Aug. 4, 1997, in Arles, France.
Baines outlived her entire family, including her only daughter, who died of typhoid.
Baines worked as a maid in Ohio State University dormitories until her retirement and has lived at the Western Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles for more than 10 years.
“Living that long is like winning the genetic lottery,” Robert Young, a scientist and senior consultant with Guinness World Records, said at her birthday party in April.
Staff at Baines’ nursing home described her as a modest woman who liked to watch the “Jerry Springer Show” and eat fried chicken, bacon and ice cream. She refused to use dentures.
“I don’t know how she does it. She only has her gums, no teeth,” said Susie Exconde, the nursing director who found Baines dead in her bed at about 7:25 a.m.
Witt, Baines’ physician, said that when he visited her earlier this week, she only complained that her bacon was soggy and arthritis was causing pain in her right knee.
Baines celebrated her birthday at the nursing home April 6 with music, two cakes and a letter from Obama.
Featured on local television newscasts when she voted last year, Baines, who is black, said she backed Obama “because he’s for the colored.” She said she never thought she would live to see a black man become president.
“We were hoping to have her until the next election,” Exconde said. “We’ll miss her.”
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