April 14, 2011

USA: Walter Breuning, world's oldest man, dies at 114

SAN FRANCISCO / San Francisco Chronicle / News / April 14, 2011

By MATT VOLZ, Associated Press

Walter Breuning's earliest memories stretched back 111 years, before home entertainment came with a twist of the radio dial. They were of his grandfather's tales of killing Southerners in the Civil War. Breuning was 3 and horrified: "I thought that was a hell of a thing to say." But the stories stuck, becoming the first building blocks into what would develop into a deceptively simple philosophy that Breuning, the world's oldest man at 114 before he died Thursday, credited to his longevity.

114 year old Walter Breuning sits for an interview with a reporter for the Associated Press in the lobby of his senior residence in Great Falls, Mont, on Oct. 6, 2010. Officials at a Montana retirement home say the world's oldest man has died. Walter Breuning was 114, making him the oldest man and the second-oldest person in the world. Breuning was born on Sept. 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minn., and moved to Montana in 1918. Breuning lived at the Rainbow Senior Living retirement home in Great Falls. Retirement home spokeswoman Stacia Kirby confirmed that Breuning died Thursday, April 14, 2011 of natural causes in a Great Falls hospital. Michael Albans / AP

Here's the world's oldest man's secret to a long life:

_ Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")

_ Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")

_ Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")

_ Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")

Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.

"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.

Breuning died of natural causes in a Great Falls hospital where he had been a patient for much of April with an undisclosed illness, said Stacia Kirby, spokeswoman for the Rainbow Senior Living retirement home where Breuning lived.

He was the oldest man in the world and the second-oldest person, according to the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group. Besse Cooper of Monroe, Ga. — born 26 days earlier — is the world's oldest person.

In an interview with The Associated Press at his home in the Rainbow Retirement Community in Great Falls last October, Breuning recounted the past century — and what its revelations and advances meant to him — with the wit and plain-spokenness that defined him. His life story is, in a way, a slice of the story of the country itself over more than a century.

"...he didn't regret anything, and he implored others to follow his philosophy.

"Everybody says your mind is the most important thing about your body. Your mind and your body. You keep both busy, and by God you'll be here a long time," he said.

Complete interview can be found here

© 2011 Hearst Communications Inc.