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Gertrude Baines, oldest person in the world, celebrates her 115th birthday

April 6, 2009 |  2:09 pm

Through it all, she smiled.

Gertrude Baines, recorded as the oldest person in the world, celebrated her 115th birthday this morning,  and well-wishers including President Obama and the Dodgers sent their regards.

Valet parking greeted guests, along with a generous spread of shrimp kabob, salmon balls and a giant red velvet cake. During the ceremony, the long-time resident of Western Convalescent Hospital in West Adams quietly looked on, dressed in a mellow pink, as a frenzy of cameras snapped away, capturing yet another milestone birthday.

Church friends and an array of political figures -- Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and state Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles) -- crowded around her, inching closer and closer to her bed as the one-hour celebration progressed.

Her pastor, Warren J. Smith, and favorite caregiver, Cynthia Thompson, stood by her side while decorated plaques, certificates, flowers and even Dodger dogs (a personal favorite of Mother Baines, as many call her) were presented.

"Ha!" she exclaimed, when Thompson told her about the gift.

It was a day like no other for Baines in a busy year filled with unprecedented attention. The native of Shellman, Ga., believed to be daughter of former slaves, broke the world record in January after a 115-year-old Portuguese woman died, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which validates claims of extreme old age.

The last four months have been a bit rough for Baines, who has struggled with her appetite and shed some weight.

"We've seen her health decline a little, but she's a very strong woman," said hospital administrator Emma Camanay.

As children presented her with handmade birthday cards and the audience sang happy birthday, Baines nodded gently and smiled. "All of us can only hope to reach that pinnacle," Parks said.

Click here for full story.

Update: A previous version of this story quoted Councilman Parks as saying "All of us can only hope to reach that plateau," instead of "pinnacle." 

-- Esmeralda Bermudez

Previous Times coverage

Gertrude Baines may be 114, but she's not counting
At 114, a daughter of former slaves votes for Obama
At 114, her only complaint is about the food

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