SA’s 'oldest man', who survived 1918 Spanish Flu, dies at 116

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Fredie Blom died on Saturday morning in Tygerberg Hospital
Fredie Blom died on Saturday morning in Tygerberg Hospital
Adrian de Kock
  • Delft resident Fredie Blom died on Saturday morning in Tygerberg Hospital
  • Blom was thought to be the oldest man in the world, although he had not been officially recognised.
  • He has been described as family orientated, respectful and hard working – even in his retirement years.

South Africa’s oldest man, and unofficially the oldest man in the world, died on Saturday morning.

Fredie Blom, affectionately referred to as "Oupa", died of natural causes in Tygerberg Hospital at the age of 116. His death has been confirmed by family friend Andre Naidoo.

Blom was born in Adelaide, Eastern Cape, in 1904.

Naidoo described how Blom had survived the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918.

"When he was 14, he returned from the mountains only to be chased away from his village because of the Spanish Flu. He had to stay in the mountains and watch as his whole family died. Eventually, there was only his baby sister left. He tried to tend to her, using hay and leaves to keep her warm, but eventually she too died. When she died, he was left alone.

"He later moved to Cape Town in search of employment. The search proved to be difficult, and he was forced to sleep rough with other job seekers until he found employment picking vegetables on a farm in Philippi. He was paid only a few shillings, but to Blom it seemed a fortune."

It was in Cape Town that he met his wife of almost 50 years, Jeanette, 86, at a dance. She already had three children, whom Blom raised as his own. He later started working on a chicken farm, where he stayed until his retirement in the 1980s.

The couple has been living in Delft for over 30 years.

But he did not slow down during his retirement years, says Naidoo, and ran a business removing alien vegetation and creating firewood.

"We had tried to get him to stop working but, up until two weeks ago, he was chopping wood as if he was a man of only 80 years," said Naidoo.

Naidoo described Blom as a man who was family orientated and respectful, although he could be stubborn on occasion.

"Whatever small thing you did for him, he was gracious about. A simple word like 'Dankie' took on a new meaning when he said it. What I wouldn’t give to hear him say it again." 

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest living man ever is Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, who died aged 116 years and 54 days. Kimura, born in 1897, was  the first man in history to have lived to 116 years old.

The world’s oldest living man is the UK’s Bob Weighton, aged 112 according to Guinness World Records.

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