GREAT FALLS – Walter Breuning, the world’s oldest man and second-oldest person, died Thursday. He was 114.
Breuning died of natural causes in a Great Falls hospital, said Stacia Kirby, spokeswoman of the Rainbow Senior Living retirement home where he lived. Breuning had been hospitalized since the beginning of the month with an undisclosed illness.
Breuning was 26 days younger than Besse Cooper of Georgia, whom the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles lists as the world’s oldest person at 114.
In an interview with The Associated Press last fall, Breuning attributed his longevity to eating just two meals a day, working as long as he could and always embracing change – especially death.
“We’re all going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you’re born to die,” he said.
Breuning was born on Sept. 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minn., and spent his early years in De Smet, S.D.
He lied about his age and got a job in Minnesota with the Great Northern Railway in 1916 at age 16. He moved to Great Falls two years later and remained a loyal railroad man for the rest of his life, working there for nearly 50 years, marrying co-worker Agnes Twokey and traveling by airplane only once in his life.
In 1963 – the year the Beatles released their first album – Breuning decided it was time to retire at age 67. His wife had died in 1957.
Despite his retirement, Breuning stuck by his philosophy and kept working. He became the manager and secretary for the Shriners, a position he held until he was 99.
Breuning moved into the Rainbow Retirement Community since 1980, calling home a spare studio apartment with bare walls.
Breuning would spent his days in an armchair outside the retirement home director’s office in a suit and tie, sitting near a framed Guinness certificate proclaiming him the world’s oldest man.
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