April 6, 2009
Gertrude Baines, right, poses with her pastor Warren Smith, left, as she celebrates her 115th birthday on Monday, April 6, 2009, at the Western Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles. Guinness World Records on Monday presented Baines with a certificate naming her the oldest person living. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Damian Dovarganes
LOS ANGELES - The world's oldest known living person celebrated her 115th birthday Monday.
Gertrude Baines was honoured at Western Convalescent Hospital with music, a letter from the president, and two cakes. Baines said little during the celebration as friends sang to her and she received a proclamation from Guinness World Records acknowledging her as the world's oldest person.
"Who would take Los Angeles for the place that would have the world's oldest person?" Robert Young, a scientist and senior consultant with Guinness, said later in an interview. "Living that long is like winning the genetic lottery."
Born in 1894 in Shellman, Ga., Baines became the world's oldest living person when a 115-year-old woman, Maria de Jesus, died in Portugal in January.
Baines' physician said she only has two complaints.
"Number one, she doesn't like the bacon. It's not crisp enough," the doctor, Charles Witt Jr., told KCAL-TV. "And the other thing is she fusses about her ... arthritis of her knees. She told me that she owes her longevity to the Lord, that she never did drink, she never did smoke and she never did fool around."
Baines father, born two years before the Civil War in 1863, was likely a slave, Young said. Baines has outlived her entire family. Her only daughter died of typhoid fever when she was a toddler.
Featured on local television newscasts in November when she cast her ballot for Barack Obama for president, Baines said she backed him "because he's for the coloured." She said she never thought she would live to see a black man become president.
Baines received a letter from Obama, wishing her a happy birthday.
Baines worked as a maid in University of Ohio dormitories until her retirement, and has lived at the Los Angeles convalescent hospital for more than 10 years.
Since 1986, Young said, the world's oldest person title has been held by a woman for all but 44 days.