Walter Breuning had memories that encompassed two world wars, the Great Depression, the “swinging ’60s,’ the space race, and the technological revolution.
But his first memory was from when he was three years old, when his grandfather would tell him tales of killing Southerners in the Civil War.
“I thought that was a hell of a thing to say,” Breuning said.
Breuning worked for the Great Northern Railway for more than 50 years, starting at just $90 a month. He bought his first car, a Ford, for $150 in 1919 . He bought a piece of property for $15.
When Breuning sat down for an interview with the AP this past October, he offered what he thought were the secrets to long life. This is what he said:
— Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. (“Every change is good.”)
— Eat two meals a day (“That's all you need.”)
— Work as long as you can (“That money's going to come in handy.”)
— Help others (“The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.”)
And the hardest of all: Accept death.
“We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die,” he said.
Breuning died at a retirement community called Rainbow in Montana, to which he had moved in 1980. He would spend his days at Rainbow in an armchair in a suit and tie, sitting near a framed Guinness certificate that said he was the world's oldest man.
The only medication Breuning took was aspirin.
To his death, he received letters from admirers from around the world.
Besse Cooper of Monroe, Ga. — born 26 days earlier — is the world's oldest person.