|Birth:||21 September 1896|
Melrose, Minnesota, USA
|Death:||14 April 2011|
Great Falls, Montana, USA
|Age:||114 years, 205 days|
Walter Breuning was born in Melrose, Minnesota to John Breuning and Cora Morehouse Breuning on 21 September 1896, and had 4 siblings, 2 sisters and 2 brothers. In 1901, when he was only 4 or 5, his family moved to De Smet, South Dakota, where he went to school for 9 years until his family broke up in 1910, when Breuning was 14. His family lived without electricity, water, or plumbing. Apart from his parents who died at only 50 and 46, there are still a few longevity runs in Breuning's family. His paternal and maternal grandparents all lived into their 90s and his siblings lived to ages 78, 85, 91 and 100. His only living family are 1 niece and 3 nephews all now in their 80s, plus great-nieces and great-nephews. In 1910, Breuning got dropped out of school and began scraping bakery pans for about $2.50 weekly.
He joined the Great Northern Railway in 1913, working for it for 49 years. During his early years, Breuning commented that he would have to hide from owner James J. Hill, as he was hired at 17 and Hill did not want any railroad employees under the age of 18. Breuning worked for the Great Northern Railway until age 66, and was also a manager/secretary for the local Shriner's club until the age of 99. During World War 1 he signed up to fight, but was never called up and he was a little too old for the second World War. He moved to Montana in 1918, where he continued working as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway.
He married in 1922 and they remained married until his wife's death in 1957. They had no children and Breuning was believed to have never married again, as he thought second marriages don't work. However, after his death, a marriage certificate was located, revealing that he married Margaret Vanest on 5 October 1958. Margaret died on 15 January 1975.
On his 110th birthday, in September 2006, Breuning was declared the oldest living retired railroader in the United States.
In an interview with the Associated Press in Autumn 2010, Breuning stated that he had no fear or rejection of change, also death. He said "We're all going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die". Breuning died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes in a Great Falls hospital at 3:30 pm local time on 14 April 2011, just five months shy of his 115th birthday. He had been hospitalized since the beginning of the month with an undisclosed illness. At the time of his death, he was the 3rd (originally thought to be 2nd, but Maria Gomes Valentim was later verified) oldest verified living person in the world, and the world's oldest man.
At the time of his death, Breuning was the 2nd to last surviving man to have been born in 1800s. Breuning and Jiroemon Kimura of Japan were the only verified 1800s-born men who survived into the 2010s, since all other verified 1800s-born men died in 2009 or before. After his death, Jiroemon Kimura, who was 5 days shy of 114, became the oldest living man. Kimura held the title for over 2 years until his death as the oldest man ever on 12 June 2013 at age 116 years, 54 days.
|Preceded by||Oldest living man
July 18, 2009 – April 14, 2011
|United States' Oldest Living Man Titleholders (V • E)|
Charlie Nelson • Charlie Phillips • Mathew Beard • Joe Thomas • Alphaeus Philemon Cole • Alton Gilbert • James Wiggins • Frederick Frazier • Christian Mortensen • Johnson Parks • Walter Richardson • John Painter • John McMorran • Fred Hale • Earl Brush • Moses Hardy • Thomas Nelson • Antonio Pierro • George Francis • Walter Breuning • Shelby Harris • Salustiano Sanchez • Alexander Imich • Conrad Johnson • Wash Wesley • Felix Simoneaux • Frank Levingston • Clarence Matthews • Richard Overton • Henry Tseng • C. P. Crawford