Born in Melrose, Minnesota, US, to John Breuning and Cora Mae Morehouse, Breuning moved to Minnesota in 1918 when he was 22.
Breuning's paternal grandparents lived to their 90s. Breuning had two sisters and two brothers, who reached varying ages; the shortest-lived of them dying at age 78, and the oldest of them becoming a centenarian.
In 1901, Breuning's family moved to South Dakota where he schooled until his family broke up in 1910. It was also the year he left school. After this happened, he landed a job at a local bakery, scraping bakery pans for $2.50 a week.
Breuning joined the Great Northern Railway in 1913, when he was 17. This was one year below the minimum age limit set by Breuning's employer, James Jerome Hill (1838-1916). Breuning often had to hide from him during his initial years there to prevent being caught. He, again, was paid $2.50 per week.
In 1962, after 49 years on the job, Breuning left at 66. He was a manager-secretary for the local Shriner's Club until 1995, when he was 99.
During World War I, he called up for military service, but never got in - his "biggest regret".
While working as a clerk for the Railway in 1918 in Minnesota, Breuning met Agnes Twokey, a telegraph operator and the two married in 1922. They remained that way until her death in 1957. "She was a good cook," Breuning recalls. He never remarried, stating, "Second marriages never work, even first marriages don't work today". The couple did not have any children during their 35-year marriage.
Breuning moved into the Rainbow Retirement and Assisted Living Centre in 1979, when he was 83. He smoked cigars for most of his life, completely quitting in 1999 at 103. Despite this, he is still perfectly healthy. American Fred Hale (1890-2004), who died just 12 days before his 114th birthday, was already on oxygen during the last months of his life.
Breuning walks with the help of a wheeled walker, and still has a sharp mind; he remembers his grandfather talking about the American Civil War in 1899, when Breuning was three. He also, interestingly, remembers the day then-American President William McKinley was shot, as the "day I got my first haircut".
Breuning takes two meals and an aspirin per day, drinks lots of water, and takes no prescription medicines at all. In winter 2007, when Breuning was 111, he was fitted with hearing aids. A week before his 113th birthday in September 2009, Breuning fell and hurt his scalp, but was otherwise fine.
Breuning still exercises, and "keeps his mind busy". He has stated that this would help you "be around for a long time".
|Breuning in the 1960s (first row, second from left)|
His 114th birthday in 2010 was a semi-private one, attended by Mayor Brian Schweitzer and a few journalists, who released photos of him during his party.
Breuning currently holds a number of impressive records. For one, he is the world's fourth-oldest validated living person, after the death of Florrie Baldwin on 8 May 2010. She was 114 years, 38 days old.
He is one of the 75 oldest people ever on record, and the seventh-oldest male ever recorded, fifth if the disputed cases of Mathew Beard and Shigechiyo Izumi are excluded.
Validated on 23 September 2006 at age 110 years, 2 days, Breuning is also the oldest undisputed native American male ever recorded in world history, earning the distinctive title on 11 September 2010 at age 113 years, 355 days after surpassing Fred Hale, who had held the title for the past six years. He is one of only five men ever recorded as having reached the age of 114. This makes him (statistically) almost as old as a 117-year-old woman. Only four females have been documented as reaching the age of 117 or more.
Breuning, on 30 September 2010, became the oldest person ever recorded to have been born in Minnesota, U.S., succeeding Catherine Hagel from the title. Hagel was 114 years, 8 days old at death. Interestingly, the state recordholder before Hagel was none other than her sister-in-law, Delvina Dahlheimer. Breuning is also one of only three male state recordholders for the US, along with Fred Hale for Maine and 112-year-old Alphaeus Philemon Cole (1876-1988) for New Jersey. Breuning is also one of only two males left who were born in the 1800s, along with 113-year-old Japanese, Jiroemon Kimura.
Update: Mr. Walter Breuning passed away on 14 April 2011, aged 114 years, 205 days.