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Fred Hale, 113; World's Oldest Man Drove a Car Until Age 108

November 22, 2004|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Fred Hale Sr., the world's oldest man, who was still shoveling snow off his roof at 103 and driving at 108, has died at the age of 113.

Hale, who held the tenuous men's longevity record for more than eight months, died Friday in his sleep in suburban Syracuse, N.Y. He had been fighting a case of pneumonia.

The hardy Hale was recognized as the world's oldest man on March 5 by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which verifies data for Guinness World Records. His designation followed the death of Joan Riudavets Moll of Spain, and the title now passes to Hermann Dornemann, 111, of Germany.

All three men, along with 61 others, mostly women, have been verified as "supercentenarians," or people at least 110 years old, said Dr. Stephen Coles and Robert Young of the Gerontology Research Group.

The oldest verified person now living, Young confirmed Sunday, is Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, 114, of the Netherlands. She was born June 29, 1890.

Hale, who was born Dec. 1, 1890, in New Sharon, Maine, had lived in his rugged native state until he was 109. Then he finally moved south -- to Syracuse, which is still well within the Snow Belt -- to be near his son Fred Jr., 82.

Father and son happily watched on television last month as Fred Sr.'s lifelong favorite baseball team won the World Series. The senior Hale was one of the few Boston Red Sox fans alive to see the team win the 2004 series and its last series 86 years ago.

Hale made his living as a railroad postal worker. But he retired 50 years ago and devoted himself to things he liked better -- gardening, canning fruits and vegetables, and making his own applesauce.

Adept at food preparation, he helped out at his daughter Carolyn's restaurant, Lord's Lobster Pound, shelling lobsters in the morning and steaming clams in the afternoon.

He also was a veteran beekeeper, and insisted on consuming a daily regimen of a teaspoonful of honey and bee pollen. Although he never smoked and rarely drank alcohol, he did sometimes wash the honey down with a breakfast nip of whiskey.

Remarkably self-reliant, at age 95 he flew to Japan to visit a grandson and on the return trip stopped in Hawaii to try his hand -- or feet -- at the boogie board.

Hale renewed his driver's license at 104, and became Guinness' oldest known driver. But he hung up his car keys at 108, annoyed by too many slow drivers.

Nearly deaf in his later years, the mentally sharp and generally healthy Hale moved about in a wheelchair. But he ate three full meals a day, rarely varying his routine except for an occasional slice of pizza.

"He didn't need a lot to be happy," his grandson, Fred Hale III, told the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Hale was married to Flor Mooers from 1910 until her death in 1979. He is survived by two of their five children, nine grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren.

He will be buried in Maine after services there Tuesday.

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