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World's oldest person dies in California at 115

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The world's oldest person, a woman who was born in 1894 and gained a measure of fame when she voted for Barack Obama for U.S. president, died on Friday at the age of 115.

Gertrude Baines died peacefully in her sleep sometime between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. local time (1300 and 1400 GMT) at the Western Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles, where she had spent the past decade of her life.

"She's a very dignified lady," Emma Camanag, the hospital's administrator, told Reuters. "It has truly been a blessing and an honour for us to take care of her over the last 10 years and we will greatly miss her. It's just like we lost a relative."

Baines had no living relatives, Camanag said, but was popular at the home and at her church, where she attended services every Sunday until she became too ill to leave her room.

Camanag said parishioners at the church often visited Baines, who was born on April 6, 1894 in Shellman, Georgia, and became the world's oldest person when 115-year-old Maria de Jesus of Portugal died in January.

Japan's Kama Chien, 114, is now the oldest person in the world.

As a Black woman who grew up in the South during the time of Jim Crow laws, which required Blacks to use separate and often inferior public facilities, Baines was celebrated in the media when she voted last November for Obama, the first African American elected president of the United States.

She had only voted once previously, for John F. Kennedy, and told the Los Angeles Times at the time that she supported Obama "because he's for the coloured." She kept a signed picture of Obama on her wall, the Times reported.

Baines, who was born during the administration of Grover Cleveland, married young and later divorced. Her only child, a daughter, was born in 1909 and died of typhoid at the age of 18.

She worked as a maid in Ohio before moving to Los Angeles and lived on her own until she was well over 100.

According to the Times, when Baines was asked by reporters her secret for living a long life, she would reply "Ask God."