Posted: Sep 23, 2009 4:38 PM
Updated: Sep 23, 2009 4:38 PM
Walter Breuning has become one of the most celebrated figures in Great Falls, and on Monday, he was the toast of not just Great Falls, but well-wishers from across the state and even the world, as he celebrated his 113th birthday.
The invitation-only celebration featured Breuning giving a brief talk, blowing out candles, sharing cake, and meeting guests, including Governor Brian Schweitzer.
Breuning was also presented with several awards, including a $10,000 check from Bob and Gladyce Oakland of City Motors; Walter then donated the money to the Childhood Language Disorder Clinic in Great Falls.
Breuning attributes his long life to eating well and keeping physically and mentally active. He also says he takes just one aspirin a day.
TUNE IN TO "FACE THE STATE" ON KRTV ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, AT 9:00 A.M. TO WATCH NEW, EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH WALTER.
(July 20, 2009)
Walter Breuning of Great Falls has inherited the title of "Oldest Living Man in the World," with the passing of Henry Allingham of England on Saturday.
Breuning was born on September 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and came to Great Falls in 1918, with the expansion of the railroad. He worked for the railroad for over 50 years.
Breuning isn't too excited and takes the news in stride. When informed of the news on Sunday, Breuning noted, "Sure, I like the title. It's OK. I don't get excited about it."
Breuning takes one aspirin each day, eats two meals a day, and strolls the halls of the Rainbow Assisted Living Facility every morning, always wearing a suit and tie. His mind is extremely sharp, and he remembers his grandfather talking about the Civil War when Walter was only three years old.
Walter said, "Everybody's got a mind that God gave us, and if you don't start using it from the time you're a baby, you're losing something. Every day (that) you don't learn something new, you've lost a day. People think that I'm crazy because I don't jump up and down," a reference to the flurry of media attention over his new-found celebrity. Breuning continued, "What good does that do? All the people before me died, they're gone. We were born to die, everybody's born to die," he noted.
So, what kind of advice does a man born in 1896 give about having a long life? Walter says its all about remaining active: "Keep your mind busy and your body busy at all times; you'll find out. I got told years ago...they tell you if you don't develop your mind...keep your mind going or it just goes right down the chute."
So how will this new milestone affect Breuning? Of course, there will be many people and news agencies from around the world that want a chance to speak with him, but Walter is a very private person and doesn't seem too excited about it. "No problem handling it, any more than it was (with) the guy from New York, same thing...they're just another person." The "guy from New York" was CBS News' Steve Hartman, who interviewed Walter in April.
Walter's next milestone: his 113th birthday in September.
Great Falls resident Walter Breuning, the oldest living man in the United States, is ready for his close-up - again. Already profiled in numerous media outlets in recent years, Breuning is in the prime-time spotlight, this time as the focus of CBS News' "Assignment America."
"Assignment America" reporter Steve Hartman visited Great Falls April 21, 2009 for a feature about Walter that aired on Friday, April 24, during the latter half of the CBS Evening News. You can watch the segment on the website from the CBS archives.
Breuning's 112th birthday party, celebrated in September, was the most-clicked story on KRTV.com in 2008. Below is video of Walter talking with CBS News' Steve Hartman in April 2009.