How many of the readers of this blog have ever heard of Walter Breuning? He was a dapper resident of Great Falls, MT until last Thursday, when he passed over at the ripe old age of 114. He was born in the 19th century and had strong memories of his grandfather telling him about killing Southern men during the Civil War, a distasteful memory for him. He bought his first car when he was 23 – a second-hand Ford – for $150.00. He worked for the railroad for over 50 years, from age 16 to age 67. He said that “one of the worst things a person can do is retire young.” After retiring from the railroad, he became manager and secretary of the local Shriners chapter, a job he kept until he was 99. He was married for 35 years, but his wife died in 1957. He thought about remarrying, but didn’t, and he had no children. He owned property in Montana once – he and his wife bought it for $15 right before the Depression. They never built on it and sold it during the Depression for $25, making a nice profit.
Walter was flexible, embracing new technology like radios, cars and computers. He was born in a house with no running water or electricity. He flew only once, preferring to remain a railroad man for all long trips.
Walter was a simple man and had a simple philosophy of life – one that we would do well to follow.
- Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. (“Every change is good.”)
- Eat two meals a day (“That’s all you need.”)
- Work as long as you can (“That money’s going to come in handy.”)
- Help others (“The more you do for others, the better shape you’re in.”)
- Accept death. (“We’re going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you’re born to die.”)
I like Walter. I wish I had met him when I was younger. I would like to have sat with him and heard his stories about coming through the early years of the 20th Century. I would love to have talked politics with him. A lifelong Republican, he said every president he recalled did something good, except G.W. Bush, who got us into a war we can’t get out of. The first president he experienced was McKinley, and he lived through 20 different presidencies. That’s quite remarkable, especially when you consider that he experienced the work of almost HALF of the presidents this country has ever had!
After 114 years, he said in one of his final interviews that he doesn’t regret anything about his life. Nothing. That’s remarkable.
I want to live life looking ahead, with no fear and no regrets when all is said and done. I want to be like Walter. Someone, please remind me of that next time I start moaning and groaning.
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