Gerontology Wiki
Walter Breuning
Walter Breuning
Breuning (aged 113) on 8 April 2010
Birth: 21 September 1896
Melrose, Minnesota, USA
Death: 14 April 2011
Great Falls, Montana, USA
Age: 114 years, 205 days
Country: United StatesUSA

Walter Breuning (21 September 1896 – 14 April 2011) was a validated American supercentenarian who was the world's oldest living man following the death of Henry Allingham on 18 July 2009, until his own death nearly two years later. He was also the third-oldest validated living person in the world overall, behind Maria Gomes Valentim and Besse Cooper.


Early Years

Walter Breuning was born in Melrose, Minnesota to John Breuning and Cora Morehouse Breuning on 21 September 1896, and had four siblings, two sisters, and two brothers. Later on in life, he claimed to have memories from the 1800s, with his earliest memory he could recall being of his grandfather, a Civil War veteran, telling him stories from the war. In 1901, when he was only 4 or 5, his family moved to De Smet, South Dakota, where he went to school for 9 years until his family broke up in 1910, when Breuning was 14. His family lived without electricity, water, or plumbing. Although his parents died at only 50 and 46, longevity was still present in Breuning's family. His paternal and maternal grandparents all lived into their 90s, and his siblings lived to the ages of 78, 85, 91, and 100. His only living family are one niece and three nephews. All of whom are now in their 80s, plus great-nieces and great-nephews. In 1910, Breuning dropped out of school and began scraping bakery pans for about $2.50 weekly.

Career and Marriage

He joined the Great Northern Railway in 1913, working for it for 49 years. During his early years, Breuning commented that he would have to hide from owner James J. Hill, as he was hired at the age of 17 and Hill did not want any railroad employees under the age of 18. Breuning worked for the Great Northern Railway until the age of 66, and was also a manager/secretary for the local Shriner's club until the age of 99. During World War 1, he signed up to fight, but was never called up and he was a little too old for the second World War. He moved to Montana in 1918, where he continued working as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway.

He married in 1922 and they remained married until his wife's death in 1957. They had no children and Breuning was believed to have never married again, as he thought second marriages don't work. However, after his death, a marriage certificate was located, revealing that he married Margaret Vanest on 5 October 1958. Margaret died on 15 January 1975.

Later Life and Death

On his 110th birthday, in September 2006, Breuning was declared the oldest living retired railroader in the United States.

In an interview with the Associated Press in Autumn 2010, Breuning stated that he had no fear or rejection of change, also death. He said "We're all going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die". Breuning died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes in a Great Falls hospital at 3:30 pm local time on 14 April 2011, just five months shy of his 115th birthday. He had been hospitalized since the beginning of the month with an undisclosed illness. At the time of his death, he was the third (originally believed to be the second, but Maria Gomes Valentim was later verified) oldest verified living person in the world, and the world's oldest man.

At the time of his death, Breuning was the second to last surviving man to have been born in 1800s. Breuning and Jiroemon Kimura of Japan were the only validated 1800s-born men who survived into the 2010s, since all other validated 1800s-born men died in 2009 or before. After his death, Jiroemon Kimura, who was five days shy of 114, became the oldest living man. Kimura held the title for over two years until his death as the oldest man ever on 12 June 2013 at age 116 years, 54 days.

Longevity Records

  • He is the second-oldest validated American-born man ever, after Mathew Beard, who lived 17 days longer than Breuning.
  • He is the fourth-oldest man to live in America, as Emiliano Mercado del Toro lived in the unincorporated American territory of Puerto Rico, and Danish-born Christian Mortensen lived most of his life in the United States.
  • He was the last surviving man born in 1896.
  • He was the last surviving verified American man born in the 19th century.
  • He was the fourth-oldest man ever at the time of his death, but was soon surpassed by Jiroemon Kimura (who went onto become the oldest man ever), and he was pushed back to fifth place. He still remains one of seven validated men to reach the age of 114+ and one of only two American-born men who did so.
  • He was believed to be the oldest American-born man ever. However, Mathew Beard (1870–1985), whose case was considered dubious, was later verified to be older.
  • He is the currently the oldest known man and person ever born in the U.S. state of Minnesota.
  • He was the oldest known man and person to ever die in the U.S. state of Montana.



World's Oldest Living Man Titleholders (V • TE)

Sylvester Melvin • Joseph Saint-Amour • William Fullingim • John Mosley Turner
Friedrich Wedeking • Frederick Butterfield • Jean Teillet • Charlie Nelson • Charlie Phillips • Mathew Beard • Joe Thomas • Herman Smith-Johannsen • Alphaeus Philemon Cole • John Evans • Henri Perignon • James Wiggins • Frederick Frazier • Josep Armengol-Jover • Christian Mortensen • Johnson Parks • Walter Richardson • Denzo Ishizaki • Antonio Urrea-Hernandez • John Painter • Antonio Todde • Yukichi Chuganji • Joan Riudavets-Moll • Fred Hale • Emiliano Mercado del Toro • Tomoji Tanabe • Henry Allingham • Walter Breuning • Jiroemon Kimura • Salustiano Sanchez • Arturo Licata • Alexander Imich • Sakari Momoi • Yasutaro Koide • Israel Kristal • Francisco Nunez Olivera • Masazo NonakaChitetsu WatanabeBob WeightonEmilio Flores MarquezSaturnino de la Fuente GarciaJuan Vicente Perez Mora

United States' Oldest Living Man Titleholders (VE)

Charlie Nelson • Charlie Phillips • Mathew Beard • Joe Thomas • Alphaeus Philemon Cole • Alton Gilbert • Oscar DuboisJames Wiggins • Frederick Frazier • Christian Mortensen • Johnson Parks • Walter Richardson • John Painter • John McMorran • Fred Hale • Earl Brush • Moses Hardy • Thomas Nelson • Antonio Pierro • George Francis • Walter Breuning • Shelby Harris • Salustiano Sanchez • Alexander Imich • Conrad Johnson • Wash Wesley • Felix Simoneaux • Frank Levingston • Clarence Matthews • Richard Overton • Henry Tseng • CP Crawford • Irving Piken • Lawrence Brooks • Ezra Hill