Walter Breuning – 114 years

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Born September 21, 1896

Currently the oldest living man in the world!  And he is the 4th oldest living person in the world.  Mr Breuning was 112 years old at the time that I wrote him.  That is older than I can even imagine but he responded very quickly and was the first person to write me back.  I received his response one week to the day that I posted the original letter.  Receiving a letter from an alert 112 year old is like a letter from a super-hero.  Immortal power.

The envelope was thick, had the distinct feel of containing a picture.  I could not open this immediately.  It was necessary to squeal, hop about, and breath deeply holding my chest.  You would think I won a beauty pageant with all the ‘I can’t believe it’ being uttered.  I demanded my husband get me a letter opener, to do it right of course.  Well it turns out the neither of us have ever even owned a letter opener so he got me  a butter knife.

I finally opened it.  Inside I found a copy of a Masonic Newsletter hailing ‘Brother’ Breuning, an actual clipping from a newspaper celebrating his 110th birthday, a picture of himself looking quite snazzy in a black suit and red tie, and a brief but to the point handwritten note.

The note reads:

Thanks for your letter.

No eyesight.

Keep your mind busy

and exercise each day.

Watch your weight

Walter Breuning

9   21   1896

And by the way, his handwriting is totally legible.  His secret is that of moderation and hard work.  I laughed when I read it, its exactly what people don’t want to hear.

Keep your mind busy.  Walter Breuning belongs to the Masonic Brotherhood.  According to the clipping, he was initiated on March 7, 1925 and became a Master Mason on May 16th, 1925.  He has been a member for 86 years which makes him the most senior Master Mason in the world.  I gather this is kind of a big deal.  The Masons are a charitable group focused on character building and community works.  While the Masons are traditionally men, there are off-shoots that are co-ed along with women only groups.  Once invited to join, one has to believe in a supreme being.  This opens up to many different religions and allows individual beliefs.

Research has shown that strong social ties are linked with increased longevity.  This is especially true when the social network is comprised of friends and not just family members.  Breuning has been an active member in the Masons and managed the Elbon Club, the Shriners club, until the age of 99.

In addition to his Masonic membership, Breuning worked longer than many people even live.  He began working for the Great Northern Railroad in Montana in 1918, worked through the Great Depression, and retired after working 50 years.  He’s quoted as saying, “Work.  When I was 50, I was working two or three jobs.  The secret is to keep busy.”

Exercise everyday.  According to the Evercare 100 @ 100 survey, centenarians reported physical activity an important part of their lifestyle with the most popular forms being walking, hiking, and working in the garden.

Watch your weight.  At 110, in addition to walking he also said he only eats two meals a day.  It is not clear when he began this routine but it appears to be serving him well.

The world in 1896:

Utah is admitted as the 45th State.

William McKinley defeats William Jennings Bryan for presidency.

John Philip Sousa composes Stars and Stripes Forever.

1. Giles LC, Glonek GFV, Luszcz MA, et al. Effects of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging.  J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005;59;574-579
2. Evercare 100 @ 100 Survey.  By United Healthcare.


One thought on “Walter Breuning – 114 years

  1. I think this is a wonderful story. What an exciting idea, this website. I think this is important work you do here. As a society we tend to disregard the elderly after they reach a certain age. In truth, the elderly have lived life through tough times as we are constantly reminded by history. Maybe we should be consulting with our century old elders as to our direction regarding our future.

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