updated 1/19/2007 5:59:13 PM ET 2007-01-19T22:59:13

Julie Winnifred Bertrand, the world's oldest woman at 115, died in her sleep in a Montreal nursing home, according to Canadian media reports Friday.

Bertrand, born Sept. 16, 1891, in the Quebec town of Coaticook, passed away in her sleep early Thursday at the nursing home where she has lived for the last 35 years, her nephew told The Gazette in Montreal.

"She just stopped breathing," said Andre Bertrand, 73. "That's a nice way to go."

Bertrand became the world's oldest woman last month, after the death of Elizabeth Bolden, a Tennessee woman born on Aug. 15, 1890, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The designation made her an instant celebrity. Bertrand's niece, Elaine Sauciere, said the fame her aunt acquired late in life was really quite "unbelievable."

"This little woman sold clothes at a department store in Coaticook," said Sauciere, 70.

A British film crew had just requested an interview with Bertrand for a documentary on people who live long lives. The work also features Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, the world's oldest person, who was 26 days older than Bertrand.

Andre Bertrand said his aunt never had a problem saying no — and did so to dozens of journalists, filmmakers and medical researchers intent on discovering her secret to long life.

"She was tough, feisty and self-sufficient," Bertrand said.

The eldest of six children, Bertrand never married.

She had her suitors, Sauciere said, adding it was difficult to say how close she may have been to Louis St. Laurent, a young lawyer who went on to become prime minister.

"She was friends with his sister and I think she was sweet on him, but how serious it was, I don't know," Sauciere told the Gazette.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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