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World’s ‘oldest man’ celebrates 116th birthday more than 100 years after Spanish flu killed sister

The unofficial ‘world’s oldest man’ has celebrated his 116th birthday in the midst of a global pandemic – more than a hundred years after the Spanish Flu killed his sister.

Centenarian Fredie Blom was born on May 8, 1904, in Adelaide near the Great Winterberg mountain range of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.

In 1918, when he was 14 years old, his sister died from the deadly Spanish Flu and Mr Blom recalled having to sleep outside on a haystack to avoid getting the disease. It killed 300,000 people in the country.

Mr Blom said the worst thing about Covid-19 was the nationwide ban on cigarette sales. His neighbour, Gairoenesa Michael, revealed Mr Blom struggled to understand the coronavirus pandemic. 

About South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mr Blom said: ‘He doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ He said cigarettes were his only birthday wish this year. 

Centenarian Fredie Blom (pictured with a cigarette) was born on May 8, 1904, in Adelaide near the Great Winterberg mountain range of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province

‘I have lived this long because of God’s grace,’ he added.

He is four years older than Bob Weighton, a 112-year old British resident named the world’s oldest living man by the Guinness World Records in March. Mr Blom’s age has not yet been verified by the body.  

Grandchildren whizzed around as Mr Blom sat on the front yard of his home. Neighbours arrived soon after to sing happy birthday in a drive-by celebration.

Mr Blom spent most of his life working on farms around Cape Town. He met his 86-year-old wife Jeanette at a dance and won her heart with his jive moves.

The couple have been married for almost fifty years. They moved to the Cape Town suburb of Delft three decades ago. 

Mr Blom is helped up by one of his wife's daughters as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home in Delft, near Cape Town, on May 8

Mr Blom is helped up by one of his wife’s daughters as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home in Delft, near Cape Town, on May 8

Mr Blom stopped visiting doctors more than two years ago, claiming he was tired of being pricked and prodded.

‘Now he just takes two Disprins a day, but sometimes he steals my pills,’ Jeanette said, laughing affectionately at her stubborn husband.

Dispirin pills contain aspirin and relieve mild to moderate pain.

While Mr Blom never had children, he adopted Jeanette’s two from a previous marriage as his own.

‘He has done everything for us,’ said Mr Blom’s step-daughter Jasmien Toerien, 38.

In 1918, when he was 14 years old, his sister died from the deadly Spanish Flu and Mr Blom recalled having to sleep outside on a haystack to avoid getting the disease. It killed 300,000 people in the country

In 1918, when he was 14 years old, his sister died from the deadly Spanish Flu and Mr Blom recalled having to sleep outside on a haystack to avoid getting the disease. It killed 300,000 people in the country

Mr Blom said the worst thing about Covid-19 was the nationwide ban on cigarette sales. His neighbour, Gairoenesa Michael, revealed Mr Blom struggled to understand the coronavirus pandemic

Mr Blom said the worst thing about Covid-19 was the nationwide ban on cigarette sales. His neighbour, Gairoenesa Michael, revealed Mr Blom struggled to understand the coronavirus pandemic

Local children sing Happy Birthday to Mr Blom, pictured right, as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home

Local children sing Happy Birthday to Mr Blom, pictured right, as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home

‘He would wake up at three or four in the morning to cycle to work,’ she said. ‘He loves animals and gardening.’

Mr Blom worked as a gardener and chopped wood until he was 106. 

Speaking to News24 in 2019, Mr Blom said that there is no secret to his longevity.

‘It’s the boss upstairs who decided that my time isn’t up yet. I smoke my tobacco. I don’t go to the doctor. All I drink is an Eno and a Disprin tablet every day. And I am fine,’ he said. 

He is given hand sanitiser by one of his wife's daughters, as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus

He is given hand sanitiser by one of his wife’s daughters, as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus

Grandchildren whizzed around as Mr Blom sat on the front yard of his home

Neighbours arrived to sing happy birthday in a drive-by celebration

Grandchildren whizzed around as Mr Blom sat on the front yard of his home. Neighbours arrived soon after to sing happy birthday in a drive-by celebration

Mr Blom stopped visiting doctors more than two years ago, claiming he was tired of being pricked and prodded

Mr Blom stopped visiting doctors more than two years ago, claiming he was tired of being pricked and prodded

While Mr Blom never had children, he adopted his wife Jeanette's two from a previous marriage as his own

While Mr Blom never had children, he adopted his wife Jeanette’s two from a previous marriage as his own

Mr Blom has spent most of his life working on farms around Cape Town

He met his 86-year-old wife Jeanette at a dance and won her heart with his jive moves. Pictured with a grandchild

Mr Blom has spent most of his life working on farms around Cape Town. He met his 86-year-old wife Jeanette at a dance and won her heart with his jive moves

He is four years older than Bob Weighton, a 112-year old British resident named the world's oldest living man by the Guinness World Records in March. Mr Blom's age has not yet been verified by the body

He is four years older than Bob Weighton, a 112-year old British resident named the world’s oldest living man by the Guinness World Records in March. Mr Blom’s age has not yet been verified by the body

MailOnline has contacted Guinness World Records for comment. 

There have been 178 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 8,895 cases reported so far in South Africa. 

It comes three months after Britain’s oldest man Mr Weighton was told he was officially the oldest man in the world.

Mr Weighton, 112, admitted he was taken aback when his grandson broke the news to him in February that he had inherited the title following the death of Chitetsu Watanabe, from Japan, at the age of 112.

But rather than cracking open a bottle of bubbly, Mr Weighton, who turned 112 last month, concluded it would not be appropriate to celebrate someone else’s demise and simply vowed to carry on carrying on.

It comes three months after Britain's oldest man Mr Weighton (pictured on his birthday last year) was told he was officially the oldest man in the world

It comes three months after Britain’s oldest man Mr Weighton (pictured on his birthday last year) was told he was officially the oldest man in the world 

He said: ‘My grandson Magnus told me in the car whilst we were travelling in Alton.

‘I remember saying: “Oh goodness me, fancy this, little Robert Weighton. It’s unbelievable.”

‘I was taken aback.’

Mr Weighton, who still lives on his own in a flat in Alton, Hampshire, was born on March 29 in 1908 and has lived through both World Wars, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and the invention of the internet.

He added: ‘I’m lucky to be this old.

‘I never imagined being this old. To be honest I never even thought about getting old.’

Explaining his very British reluctance to celebrate his achievement, modest Mr Weighton added: ‘It doesn’t make a difference. It’s just another day in a long life.

Bob Weighton as a teacher in 1934

Mr Weighton, pictured above as a teenager

Mr Weighton, 112, admitted he was taken aback when his grandson broke the news to him in February that he had inherited the title following the death of Chitetsu Watanabe, from Japan , at the age of 112 Pictured, left, as a teacher in 1934 and right as a teenager 

‘I’m sorry that someone has had to die for me to get this title. I’m not celebrating anything, my family and I are just taking things as they come.’

Grandson Magnus Weighton, 48, said: ‘I’m much more proud of Bob and what he has achieved in his life rather than his age.’

Mr Weighton was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, and was the middle child of his three brothers and three sisters. 

He had three children of his own and has 10 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.

He remembers the outbreak of the First World War and as a teenager he trained in marine engineering.

Rather than cracking open a bottle of bubbly, Mr Weighton concluded it would not be appropriate to celebrate someone else's demise and simply vowed to carry on carrying on. Pictured: The world's previous oldest man, Chitetsu Watanabe, died on Tuesday, February 23

Rather than cracking open a bottle of bubbly, Mr Weighton concluded it would not be appropriate to celebrate someone else’s demise and simply vowed to carry on carrying on. Pictured: The world’s previous oldest man, Chitetsu Watanabe, died on Tuesday, February 23

But by the time he qualified in 1925 the shipping industry was in decline and so he headed to Taiwan, where he worked as an English teacher and also met his future wife Agnes.

On the eve of World War II in 1939, Bob and his family attempted to return to the UK by boat, but after arriving in Canada they were informed the war had begun and they were stuck there.

After the attack on Pearl Harbour while Mr Weighton was living in Denver, in the US, his knowledge of the Japanese language meant he was recruited by the British Political Warfare Mission.

Mr Weighton said he was shocked to be told that he is now the oldest man in the world. Pictured from left to right, Mr Weighton with his brothers John and David

Mr Weighton said he was shocked to be told that he is now the oldest man in the world. Pictured from left to right, Mr Weighton with his brothers John and David

Mr Weighton, pictured last year, has lived through the reign of five monarchs and seen 26 Prime Ministers come and go from 10 Downing Street

Mr Weighton, pictured last year, has lived through the reign of five monarchs and seen 26 Prime Ministers come and go from 10 Downing Street

He deciphered enemy messages and also worked to disrupt the morale of the Japanese to try and help the Americans win their fight.

After the war, he was finally able to return to England with his wife and three children and spent the rest of his working life as a lecturer in marine engineering at City University in London, until his retirement, aged 65, in 1973.

He and his wife, who passed away in 1997, spent much of their retirement volunteering as marriage councillors and helping at youth groups in Alton.

Mr Weighton with his children Peter (top left), David (right) and Dorothy, in 2008 celebrating his 100th birthday

Mr Weighton with his children Peter (top left), David (right) and Dorothy, in 2008 celebrating his 100th birthday

Mr Weighton was the middle child of his three brothers and three sisters. Pictured left to right: Mr Weighton in 1918 with his sister Margaret, brother David and sisters Bessie and Jean

Mr Weighton was the middle child of his three brothers and three sisters. Pictured left to right: Mr Weighton in 1918 with his sister Margaret, brother David and sisters Bessie and Jean

Mr Weighton has lived through the reign of five monarchs and seen 26 Prime Ministers come and go from 10 Downing Street.

Remarkably, he had shared the title of Britain’s oldest man with Alf Smith, of Perthshire, as the pair were born on the same day, but Mr Smith died last year.

Mr Watanabe, from Joetsu City in Japan, had been certified as a Guinness World Record holder for being the world’s oldest man and it is thought Mr Weighton will now receive similar honours.

The oldest known living woman is Kane Tanaka of Japan, aged 117 years.  

The extraordinary life of Bob Weighton, 112

Mr Weighton was born in Hull on March 29 in 1908 and was the middle child of his three brothers and three sisters. 

He is old enough to remember the outbreak of the First World War and retired nearly fifty years ago, in 1973. 

After training as an engineer, Mr Weighton worked as an English teacher in Taiwan and during the Second World War, he was living in the US. 

Mr Weighton was born in Hull on March 29 in 1908 and was the middle child of his three brothers and three sisters

Mr Weighton was born in Hull on March 29 in 1908 and was the middle child of his three brothers and three sisters

After learning Japanese for his teaching job, he helped to decipher enemy messages and also worked to disrupt the morale of the Japanese to try and help the Americans win their fight. 

He married his wife Agnes in 1937 and the pair went on to have children David, Peter and Dorothy.  

Mr Weighton has a workshop in his flat where he makes windmills and ornaments from recycled wood.

And he still shops and cooks for himself and regularly goes to the local supermarket using his walking aid. 

Last year, he had a new number plate – Bob 111 – created to mark his birthday.

The pensioner said on his last birthday the world had changed ‘enormously’ but that people have mostly stayed the same.   

He said: ‘Visually and in physical terms, it’s changed enormously, in what human beings are – not at all.

‘The basic concerns of human beings of meeting and interacting with other human beings is exactly the same – ‘can this person be trusted?”

Regarding changes in the world, he said: ‘In practical terms, one thing is the speed of travel. 

‘In 1933 I travelled to the Far East on a P&O boat to Hong Kong and it took six weeks, now you can fly there in about eight or nine hours.’

He pointed to the speed of communication as another major shift. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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