World's oldest man dies in Montana

SALMON, Idaho Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:11am EDT

Walter Breuning in a September 2010 photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Serve Montana/Governor's Office of Community Service

Walter Breuning in a September 2010 photo.

Credit: Reuters/Courtesy of Serve Montana/Governor's Office of Community Service

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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A 114-year-old retired railroad worker reputed to be the world's oldest living man died of natural causes on Thursday in the farming community of Great Falls, Montana.

Walter Breuning, who had lived in a nursing home since 1980, was declared the oldest man on July 18, 2009, by the Guinness Book of World Records.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend and a great Montanan, Walter Breuning," Governor Brian Schweitzer said in a statement. "He was wise even beyond his years."

Breuning was born September 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and spent most of his early life in South Dakota before taking a job with the Great Northern Railway in 1913, according to the Rainbow Senior Living retirement home in Great Falls.

He moved to Montana in 1918 to clerk for the railway and married Agnes Twokey, a telegraph operator, four years later.

He retired from the railroad at age 66. He attributed his longevity to restricting daily meals to breakfast and lunch and to downing an aspirin a day.

In recent years, Breuning attracted a following, appearing on "News Hour with Jim Lehrer" in 2009 and participating in a question-and-answer segment in the magazine Men's Journal.

"He was one of the kindest gentlemen and one of the humblest," said Stacia Kirby, spokeswoman for the Rainbow.

Kirby said Breuning's mind was lucid to the end and he had told his caretakers he was unafraid of death.

"Walter taught me that all things in moderation will help lead to a long life, that hard work and a modest living are enough for a happy life and most importantly that giving back to others is good for the soul," Schweitzer said.

(Editing by Peter Bohan and Bill Trott)

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