BOONSBORO, Md. - The last surviving 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.

In 1916, she met with Secretary of the Navy 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, she 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.

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

Friends said she was proud of her role but didn't like to be fussed over as she grew older and as 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 she 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," Auber told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, "and when asked, she'd say it was the thing to do, to be patriotic. And, she was very patriotic."