BOONSBORO, Md. - The last known surviving American female World War I veteran, a refined Civil War buff who met face-to-face with the secretary of the Navy to fight for women in the military, has died. She was 109.

Charlotte Winters died Tuesday at a nursing home near Boonsboro in northwest Maryland, the U.S. Naval District in Washington said in a statement. Her death leaves just five known surviving American World War I veterans.

In 1916, Winters met with Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels to persuade him to allow women in the service, said Kelly Auber, who grew up on South Mountain, where Winters and her husband, John Winters, settled.

When the Navy opened support roles to women, Winters and her sister, Sophie, joined immediately in 1917, Auber said. By December 1918, the Naval District said more than 11,000 women had enlisted and were serving in support positions.

Winters served as a secretary and retired in 1953 with the rank of yeoman in the Naval Reserve.

Friends said she was proud of her role but didn't like to be fussed over as she grew older and there were fewer and fewer WWI veterans alive.

" 'Why are they doing this for me? I don't deserve all this,' " Doug Bast of Boonsboro recalled her saying.

Auber said Winters was "an absolutely refined lady" who with her husband was fond of traveling the country looking for burial spots of fallen Civil War generals.

"She was very proud of her accomplishments, and when asked, she'd say it was the thing to do, to be patriotic," Auber told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. "And, she was very patriotic." *