Gertrude Baines, the world's oldest resident, died in her sleep at a Los Angeles convalescent hospital, the L.A. Times reported earlier this morning. A heart attack was the most likely cause of death, her longtime doctor, Charles Witt, was quoted as saying in another report. Baines was 115 and was believed to have been the daughter of a man born into slavery during the Civil War, as well as the granddaughter of former slaves. These facts made the casting of her ballot for Barack Obama last November especially poignant, and brought her to national attention. Like the recent passing of Harry Patch, Britain's last surviving combat soldier from World War I, the death of Baines severs a link to a national cataclysm whose legacy lives on today.
Baines was born in Georgia and moved to Ohio, where she worked as a dormitory maid at Ohio State University until her retirement, before moving to Los Angeles.
An Associated Press report noted that “[n]urses at Western Convalescent Hospital described Baines 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.”