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Just a suggestion, but use Ubuntu 10.10 and tweak the interface to fit your needs. Nothing crazy, just change the Gnome menu options, remove all the icons on the desktop but Firefox/Chrome that points to the email site, add an email client if you find a simple one, and that's it. If this person is foreign to Linux and feels more comfortable with Windows, add the XP styles to the interface and move the menu bar to the bottom.
I used this exact set for a family that needed the PC only for a 1st grader's online tests. No one had enough knowledge to get around the simple setup and make mischief, so it worked out fine.