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Woman once touted as world's oldest dies at 119

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Mexican once put forward for the title of world's oldest woman has died at 119, government officials said Thursday.

Ana Maria Perez died of pneumonia Tuesday at a hospital in the Pacific state of Colima, said Dora Yanez, an official with the Colima state Institute for Attention to the Elderly.

Perez has a valid birth certificate stating she was born June 22, 1890, in western Michoacan state, Yanez told The Associated Press.

State authorities applied about three years ago to have Perez declared the world's oldest woman by the Guinness Book of World Records, but the attempt foundered when officials could not raise enough money for a Guinness judge to visit and confirm the claim, Yanez said.

Yanez said her institute first learned about Perez through her granddaughter. Institute officials were visiting the granddaughter — then 77 — to offer their services. They were shocked when the elderly woman said she had a grandmother who could also use help.

"We said, 'Ay caray! Well, where is your grandmother?'" Yanez said.

Visit from the president
Although Perez never got the world title, she received a visit last year from President Felipe Calderon, who awarded her a special recognition.

Gertrude Baines, declared the world's oldest person by Guinness last January, died in September in Los Angeles at 115. Japan's Kama Chinen, 114, now holds that title, according to Gerontology Research Group, which tracks claims of extreme old age.

Guinness says the oldest person ever known with an authenticated birth date was Jeanne-Louise Calment, who was 122 when she died Aug. 4, 1997, in Arles, France.