The air was filled with excitement Sunday at the Western Convalescent Center as Gertrude Baines celebrated her 114th birthday among a shower of congratulatory greetings, handshakes and warm hugs.
Baines, the daughter of former slaves, is officially recorded as the oldest living person in California and the third oldest person in the world according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Draped in a bright red shawl and sporting a leopard trimmed hat, Baines, a former college maid, smiled modestly and nodded as a number of elected officials congratulated her and presented her with proclamations.
She smiled as she eyed the white birthday cake that featured her picture and surveyed the gaily decorated table resplendent with sandwiches and tropical fruit.
How did you get so old? someone in the crowd asked Baines.
Chuckling, Baines cocked her head to one side. Youre going to have to ask the Lord about that, she responded.
Born in Smyrna, Georgia on April 6, 1894, Baines first memory was riding in a car. She claims that she never had a serious sick day in her life.
Baines had one daughter, who died of typhoid fever at the age of 18. She outlived her husband who she divorced years ago. The centenarian has no living relatives.
Shes very healthy, said the convalescent administrator Emma Camanag. Shes also very witty. She doesnt smoke or drink and she trusts God, said Camanag.
Baines, who has resided at the convalescent home for seven years, is popular among the residents and the nurses.
She loves watching The Price is Right and Jerry Springer on television, said Camanag.
Although she is restricted to a wheelchair due to a touch of arthritis, Baines exercises daily, stretching her arms and doing hip exercises.
Baines also likes to eat. I eat bacon, toastI like all kinds of food. If it tastes good, I eat it. If it doesnt taste good, I dont eat it.
Right after lunch, shell usually take a nap, said Camanag. The rest home administrator also said that Baines delivers sage words of advice. Ms. Baines said, Do not be afraid of long life. Longevity is good.