On His 116th Birthday South Africa's Fredie Blom Only Wants His Cigarettes!

Published May 10th, 2020 - 05:44 GMT
Fredie Blom enjoys a cigarette as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home in Delft, near Cape Town, on May 8, 2020. According to 'Oupa' (grandfather) Fredie and his identity card, he was born in 1904, making him one of the oldest men in the world. RODGER BOSCH / AFP
Fredie Blom enjoys a cigarette as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home in Delft, near Cape Town, on May 8, 2020. According to 'Oupa' (grandfather) Fredie and his identity card, he was born in 1904, making him one of the oldest men in the world. RODGER BOSCH / AFP
In 1918, when he was 14 years old, his sister died from the deadly Spanish Flu.

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. 

'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 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.

'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. 

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.

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.

'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.

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.

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 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. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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