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'World's Oldest Man' celebrates 114th birthday

A US resident believed to be the world's oldest man celebrated his 114th birthday at a retirement home.

Walter Breuning was born on September 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and moved to Montana in 1918, where he worked as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway for 50 years.

His wife, Agnes, a railway telegraph operator from Butte, died in 1957. The couple had no children.

Mr Breuning inherited the distinction of being the world's oldest man in July 2009 when Briton Henry Allingham died at age 113.

Mr Allingham joked that the secret to long life was "Cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women - and a good sense of humour," according to Guinness World Records.

The Guinness organisation and the Gerontology Research Group each verified Mr Breuning as the world's oldest man and the fourth-oldest person. Three women were born earlier in the same year as Mr Breuning.

Robert Young, senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records, presented Mr Breuning with a copy of the book's 2011 edition that lists him as the record holder.

"Walter wasn't in last year's edition," Mr Young joked. "He was too young."

The Great Falls Tribune reported that Mr Breuning gave a speech before about 100 people at an invitation-only birthday party at the Rainbow Retirement Community, with a guest list that included Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and representatives from Guinness World Records.

Mr Breuning was helped up to a lectern from his motorised cart, appearing somewhat frail but speaking with a strong voice.

He recalled "the dark ages," when his family moved to South Dakota in 1901 and lived for 11 years without electricity, water or plumbing.

"Carry the water in. Heat it on the stove. That's what you took your bath with. Wake up in the dark. Go to bed in the dark. That's not very pleasant," he said.

He said men and women may be able to enjoy life, but they can not be content without a belief or faith. His parting message to the crowd was one of tolerance.

"With all the hatred in this world, in this good world, let us be kind to one another," Mr Breuning said.

Mr Breuning has celebrity status at the retirement home, with visitors waiting in line to see him, Ray Milversted, 92, told the Tribune.

Tina Bundtrock, executive director of the Rainbow, said the home adopted a policy of scheduling visits with Mr Breuning by appointment, so he is not taxed by people dropping in to see him.

Before his birthday party, Mr Breuning declined to name a favourite among the 114 years he has seen.

"Every year is the same," Mr Breuning told the Great Falls newspaper.

But he criticised one modern invention - the computer.

"When the computer came out, that was one of the worst things," Mr Breuning said. "They laid off all the clerks on the railroad."

But, he added: "Every change is good."