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Herman Smith-Johannsen
Herman Smith-Johannsen
Birth: 15 June 1875
Horten, Vestfold, Norway
Death: 5 January 1987
Vestfold, Norway
Age: 111 years, 204 days
Country: NorwayNOR

Herman Smith-Johannsen (15 June 1875 – 5 January 1987) known also as "Jackrabbit", was a verified Norwegian-Canadian supercentenarian who gained widespread recognition for being one of the first people to introduce the sport of cross-country skiing to Canada and North America. He is recognized by certain groups within the cross-country skiing community in Canada for the many contributions he made to the sport and for his personal longevity.[1]


Johannsen was born in the town of Horten, some 50 miles south of Norway's capital Oslo, and graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Berlin in 1899. He emigrated to the USA as a machinery salesman shortly thereafter. In 1907, Johannsen emigrated to Canada with his family and settled in the Laurentians in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec. Johannsen learned French and further introduced skiing to the area.

While on a trip to Canada to sell machinery to the Canadian Grand Trunk Railway in 1902, Johannsen was befriended by the First Nations Cree in the wilderness above North Bay, Ontario. The nickname "Jackrabbit" is said to have been given to him by the Cree, who were impressed by his speed on skis compared to the snowshoes they were using at the time.

Johannsen married Alice Robinson (1882–1963) in 1907 and settled permanently in the Laurentians region of Quebec in Canada during the Great Depression. They had 3 children; Alice (1911–1992), Robert "Bob" (1915–2001) and Peggy (1918–2014). He is credited with building many ski jumps and with blazing trails throughout Ontario, theEastern Townships, and the Laurentians. On 22 December 1972, Johannsen was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for fostering and developing skiing as a recreation and helping and encouraging generations of skiers in Canada.[2]

Johannsen is the namesake of Cross Country Canada's Jackrabbit program designed to introduce children 6-9 to cross-country skiing through local ski clubs. Some former "Jackrabbits" introduced to skiing through the program include Olympic medalists Beckie Scott, Sara Renner, and Chandra Crawford and World Champions Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey.

He was an honorary member of the Norwegian skiing and gentlemen's club SK Ull. Jackrabbit died from pneumonia on 5 January 1987 at the age of 111 years, 204 days in a hospital near Tønsberg, Norway. He has been posthumously recognised as the oldest living man for the last month of his life. He is buried by the St. Sauveur church in St. Sauveur, Canada, next to his wife, who died in 1963.[3]


World's Oldest Living Man Titleholders (V • TE)

Sylvester Melvin • Joseph Saint-Amour • William Fullingim • John Mosley Turner
Friedrich Wedeking • Frederick Butterfield • Jean Teillet • Charlie Nelson • Charlie Phillips • Mathew Beard • Joe Thomas • Herman Smith-Johannsen • Alphaeus Philemon Cole • John Evans • Henri Perignon • James Wiggins • Frederick Frazier • Josep Armengol-Jover • Christian Mortensen • Johnson Parks • Walter Richardson • Denzo Ishizaki • Antonio Urrea-Hernandez • John Painter • Antonio Todde • Yukichi Chuganji • Joan Riudavets-Moll • Fred Hale • Emiliano Mercado del Toro • Tomoji Tanabe • Henry Allingham • Walter Breuning • Jiroemon Kimura • Salustiano Sanchez • Arturo Licata • Alexander Imich • Sakari Momoi • Yasutaro Koide • Israel Kristal • Francisco Nunez Olivera • Masazo NonakaChitetsu WatanabeBob WeightonEmilio Flores Marquez

Europe’s Oldest Living Man Titleholders (VE)

Geert Adriaans Boomgaard • Unknown • Matthias DodenhoffFrederick StabbinsWilliam MugfurSven ErikssonJean-Pierre DupontWilliam WalkerBening Arnold • Hans Schaftner-BurginLars OlofssonMarc PicqJohan Svanstrom • Erik JanssonFrancesco CubaddaThomas PopeJohn FrancklowKarl Nilsson • Unknown • Antonio Marchi • August KarlssonKarl GlocknerAnders JonassonMathias Hansen SaetherJan KipWillem Kostering • Unknown • Francesco Paba • John Mosley Turner • Unknown • Friedrich Wedeking • Frederick Butterfield • Jean Teillet • Pasquale CappelloGiuseppe Arena • Luigi SabaIngebrigt Johansen • Victor Guillot • Andrei Kuznetsoff • Herman Smith-Johannsen • John Evans • Henri PerignonDomenico Minervino • Josep Armengol-Jover • Pablo Roy • Emile Fourcade • Bernard Delhom • Valentino StellaGregorio Merino • Antonio Baldo • Antonio Urrea-Hernandez • Alejandro Rivera Santalla • Antonio Todde • Joan Riudavets-MollHermann Dornemann • Jerzy Pajaczkowski-Dydynski • Maurice Floquet • Henry AllinghamHarry Patch • Stanley Lucas • Jan Goossenaerts • Francisco Fernandez • Arturo Licata • Rezso GallaiPhilippe Vocanson • Harold Bracher • Francisco Nunez Olivera • Gustav GernethBob Weighton • Dumitru Comanescu • Saturnino de la Fuente Garcia

Norway's Oldest Living Person Titleholders (VE)

Maria Padderud • Nils Monsen Slaire • Karen Thorsen • Mathias Hansen Saether • Vilhelmine Olsen • Marie Olsen • Gjertrud Aas • Madli Bjoerkenes • Synnoeve Gundersen • Ellen Hoddoe • Beret Esp • Kristine Fredriksen • Ingeborg Time • Hans Aasegg • Tomine Seland • Martha Eike • Olav Holtan • Hulda Lie • Ludvig Froeysland • Karl Holm • Ingebrigt Johansen • Inga Nilsen • Herman Smith-Johannsen • Maren Bolette Torp • Aasne Hustveit • Erik Arnegaard • Klara Joergensen • Inga Storstenvik • Lydianna Endresen • Ella Hagen • Laura Svehaug • Amund Vermedal • Karen Svisdal • Herborg Tjoflot • Olav Hovatn • Harriet Holm • Borghild Nilsen • Anna Gundersen • Asborg Aarli • Ingeborg Thuen • Inger Buchholdt • Emma Bendiksen • Gunda Harangen • Ida Sofie Hanssen • Gudrun Onshuus • Helene Nilsen • Kristi Oektedalen • Ragndid Slotfeldt-Ellingsen • Elisabet Ekenaes • Ragnhild HaugenTorbjorn OverboMarie AndersenPetra HogetveitGudrun NymoenGunhild Lyse