Fredie Blom, a South African who was believed to be the world’s oldest man, has died at the age of 116. His family said he died of natural causes in Cape Town on Saturday.
“Two weeks ago oupa [grandfather] was still chopping wood,” family spokesman Andre Naidoo told AFP. “He was a strong man, full of pride.” However, within days Blom shrank “from a big man to a small person”, he added.
Blom’s ‘record’ as the oldest man has been dubbed ‘unofficial’ in certain media outlets even though there is currently no known competitor. There are no documents to back up his birth in 1904 but this is not uncommon for Africans of that time.
If he was as old as believed, Blom was four years older than Bob Weighton, the Guinness World Book of Records ‘oldest man’ who was named in March.
Where there was however no point of doubt was that Blom witnessed with COVID-19, his second truly global flu-like pandemic. He was 14 when the Spanish flu in 1918 took over 300,000 lives in South Africa including that of Blom’s own sister.
Blom, who lived near Capetown, recently said he is thankful for his age and can think of only one reason he has lived this long.
In an interview published in the UK’s Daily Mail, Blom is reported to have said: “I have lived this long because of God’s grace.”
Last year, he told South African outlet News24, “It’s the boss upstairs who decided that my time isn’t up yet.”
He has been married to his 86-year-old wife Jeanette for about 50 years. Blom did not have children of his own so he adopted the daughters Jeanette brought with her into the marriage.
“He has done everything for us”, Jasmien Toerien, one of Blom’s step-daughters is reported to have said.
Toerien praised Blom as a hardworker who tried to provide for the family waking up at “three or four in the morning to cycle to work”. He is said to have worked as a gardener and wood-chopper until he was 106.
Blom himself believed living a simple routine has been beneficial too. “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 in that interview with News24.
Tobacco, or rather the lack of it, was one of the reasons he was upset recently with the South African lockdown as a result of the coronavirus – Blom could not buy cigarettes during the lockdown.
Cigarettes were reportedly his only birthday wish for this year. Somehow, the people at the Guinness World Book of Records have not reached out to Blom and family even though Guinness has been told of the centenarian. But the family is nonetheless expectant.