World's oldest man dies at 114

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The Independent US

Walter Breuning, the world's oldest man and second-oldest person, has died at 114.

Mr Breuning died of natural causes in a Montana hospital, said Stacia Kirby, spokeswoman for the Rainbow Senior Living retirement home where he lived. He had been in hospital since the beginning of the month with an undisclosed illness.

Mr 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 last autumn, Mr 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.

Mr Breuning was born on September 21, 1896 in Minnesota and spent his early years in South Dakota.

That first decade of the 1900s was literally a dark age for his family, who had no electricity or running water. A bath for young Walter would require his mother to fetch water from the well outside and heat it on the coal-burning stove.

He lied about his age and got a job in Minnesota with the Great Northern Railway in 1916 at 16. He moved to Montana two years later and remained a loyal railroad man for the rest of his life, working there for 50 years, marrying co-worker Agnes Twokey and travelling by plane only once in his life.

He earned 90 dollars (£55) a month for working seven days a week at the beginning, an amount he said was "a lot of money at that time".

In 1919 he bought his first car, a £92 secondhand Ford, and he and his wife bought property for £9 and planned to build a house - but it went off the tracks when the Great Depression struck.

Mr Breuning was able to hold on to his job, but he and Agnes never built their house, selling the land for £15.

Agnes died in 1957 after 35 years of marriage. The couple had no children, and Mr Breuning never remarried.

In 1963 - the year the Beatles released their first album - Mr Breuning decided it was time to retire at 67, but stuck by his philosophy and kept working. He became the manager and secretary for masonic organisation the Shriners, a position he held until he was 99.

Mr Breuning moved into the Rainbow Retirement Community in 1980, calling home a spare studio apartment with bare walls.

He 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.

He would eat breakfast and lunch and then retire to his room in the early afternoon. He would visit the doctor just twice a year for checkups and the only medication he would take was aspirin, director Tina Bundtrock said.