How did California's oldest woman get to age 112? Bacon and coffee in the morning, the Dodgers and an occasional cocktail before bed.

Even before Elma Corning died in Hollywood on Monday, her health and longevity were the subject of wonder as well as an inquiry by a UCLA specialist on aging. What Dr. Stephen Coles found in Corning was a woman who acted as if no one ever told her that she was old.

During the last 23 years of her life at Kingsley Manor retirement home in Hollywood, Corning insisted on a breakfast of bacon and coffee, enjoyed a piece of pie for dessert, and on special occasions ended the evening with a nightcap. She was a Dodger fanatic and an active member of the manor's residents council, often starting the meeting with a curt "Cut out the laughing! Meeting come to order!"

Until the day she died, Corning dressed impeccably, disdainful of the plain smocks some residents wore. With the help of her nurse, each morning she would don one of her signature dresses, put on makeup, earrings and a pearl necklace, and slip on a pair of fancy black shoes. "You've got your dancing shoes on," a longtime friend would tease her.

Each Wednesday, including her final one, Corning had her hair curled. Every other week, she sat for a manicure. Always proud of her appearance, Corning modeled in the home's annual fashion shows until she was 100.

It was her son, 80-year-old Russell Corning, who a year ago contacted Coles to tell him about his mother. Coles, one of a handful of researchers who keep a running file on "super-centenarians" (people 110 or older), was intrigued, and in April he went to Kingsley Manor to interview her.

"She looked great the day I interviewed her. That really blew me away," said Coles, a professor and researcher at UCLA's School of Medicine.

Coles said he was initially skeptical of Corning's age until he looked at the back of her hands, where transparent skin is a signature of centenarians. He later verified her age through personal records, including a birth certificate and a marriage certificate, which her son provided him.