May Be the World's Second-Oldest Man
11:30 AM EDT; August 6, 2000; Lakeland, FL (Summary of 20-minute telephone interview with Dr. L. Stephen Coles in Los Angeles, CA) -- Mr. John McMorran was born on June 19, 1889 near Imlay City, Michigan. He spoke loud-and-clear about his long life.
To watch a short video clip of Mr. McMorran, click here .
Summary of Past Medical History
At age 111, Mr. McMorran is now confined to a wheel chair. His vision is severely impaired (he can see shapes and bright light/shadows), and he is mildly deaf (one needs to speak directly into his ear to be heard). One lower tooth remains; he has no dentures.
Father: George died at age 53;
Mother: Lidy Ingram died at age 69;
Siblings: He had two sisters and one brother (younger). The sisters died at 96 and 103 yo, respectively; and his brother died at age 84.
Spouse: His wife, Matie, died at age 78 in 1964 (when he was 75).
Children: They had 2 boys (and 2 girls?), and there are now numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Tobacco: Smoked 1 pack of cigarettes per day at one point;
Alcohol: "I drank some beer."
Caffeine: He religiously drinks one cup of coffee before each meal.
Occupation(s): Farmer, and later, truck driver.
He is able to feed himself.
He sang a song for the staff.
Question: Who is the President of the United States? Answer: "I don't pay attention to that sort of thing."
Question: How much does a car cost today? Answer: "I don't know because I haven't bought a car in a long time."
Question: When did you retire? Answer: "I'm not retired yet!"
A blood sample was drawn last year and sent for analysis to the New England Centenarian Study . Hopefully, DNA SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) of important longevity genes will be studied systematically in the Centenarian population.
May Be the Oldest Living Man
The Times Herald News
Port Huron, Michigan
[Mike Connell's column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 989-6271.]
Years ago, a palm reader told John McMorran he would live to be 111. He went along, nodding and laughing and not believing a word of it. On Monday, John Ingram McMorran -- a longtime resident of Port Huron who now lives in a nursing home in central Florida -- will celebrate his 111th birthday. He just may be the world's oldest living man.
The place to start this story is Goodland Township, named for the good brown earth -- "muck" they call it -- north of Imlay City in Lapeer County. It is where Mr. McMorran was born in a log cabin June 19, 1889. As I write this, I am looking at a copy of his birth certificate. He was the first-born child of George T. McMorran, a 31-year-old farmer, and his 22-year-old bride, the former Lydia Ingram of Ontario. Is he the truly the world's oldest man? "It certainly looks like it" said Johnny Adams of the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles. "He just may be the oldest man whose age can be documented."
On May 30, The Guinness Book of World Records bestowed the oldest-man title on Mr. Benjamin Harrison Holcomb, a retired farmer in Oklahoma. Mr. Holcomb was born July 3, 1889 -- exactly two weeks after Mr. John McMorran.
The only person older, Guinness says, is Mrs. Eva Morris of Staffordshire, England, who turns 115 in November. Of course, any number of people claim to be older still. A woman on the Caribbean island of Dominica says she is 125 and one of her neighbors claims to be 117. A Puerto Rican man now living in Tampa insists he will be 120 on June 24th. An elder in the African nation of Namibia lists his birthday as August 10, 1888, making him 112, and credits his long life to God, women, beer, and maize porridge.
Unfortunately, none of these people can provide clear and convincing documentation of their age. Guinness demands such documentation. No one has yet brought Mr. McMorran to Guinness' attention, but there is ample proof of his age. His Birth Certificate is on file in Lapeer County (although it's a delayed registration made in 1941). His marriage certificate, dated Aug. 27, 1913, and listing his age as 24, is on file in the St. Clair County Courthouse.
I first wrote about Mr. McMorran last summer, shortly after his 110th birthday. He is hard of hearing and I could not interview him over the phone, but one of his friends took my questions to him and jotted down the answers. Nearly everything he has to say is an interesting tidbit: His first car was a 1912 Ford with a crank engine. He was too old (28) to be drafted for World War I, but he put in 20-hour days building bombs at a munitions factory in Detroit. He earned $1 an hour -- "big money" in 1917. He has seen 20 presidents come and go, from Benjamin Harrison to Bill Clinton. He and his wife, Matie, celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1963. She died the next year.
And, yes, he is related to Henry McMorran, the wealthy businessman and longtime Congressman whose name was bestowed on Port Huron's McMorran Place. His father and the congressman were first cousins. "It was their side of the family that had the money," he said. Mr. McMorran grew up in St. Clair County. His parents farmed in the Yale and Avoca areas. There were three more children including Lydia McMorran Webb, a longtime resident of Port Huron's South Park who died in 1994 at age 103.
Obviously, it's a family with good genes, which explains why Harvard University scientists recently drew a sample of Mr. McMorran's blood. They're analyzing it, hoping to learn what qualities allow him to have normal blood pressure after 11 decades. He offers a formula for long life: "I drink a cup of coffee before every meal -- and stay away from cheap whiskey."
Bob McMorran of Lakeland, Fla., suspects his grandfather's longevity is a reflection of his get-up-and-go lifestyle. "He came from a family of farmers ... hard-working people," he said. "He worked hard all of his life. He was something like 85 before he retired."
In the 1920s, he lived near Goodells and worked as a milk hauler, collecting milk from local farms and delivering it to dairy receiving stations in Goodells and Memphis. A nephew, 80-year-old Douglas Webb of Leesburg, FL, grew up next door to the McMorrans. He and Mr. McMorran's only child, Robert (who died about 25 years ago), were the same age. By the time they could walk, they were playmates. In the late 1920s, the two boys occasionally accompanied Mr. McMorran on his deliveries. "He had this stake-rack (flatbed) truck and he'd cover the milk cans with burlap. Every couple of stops, he'd douse the burlap with water to cool the milk," Mr. Webb said. "If he took his foot off the gas pedal, that old truck would slip out of high gear. So, he whittled a stick and when he got into high gear, he'd shove that stick in just so and then the truck would stay in gear." In the 1930s, he hauled milk to Johnson's Dairy in Detroit. But with the advent of tanker trucks, his business dried up.
In the mid-1950s, when he was old enough to retire, he took a job hauling mail from Port Huron to post offices at North Street, Croswell, Carsonville, Sandusky, McGregor, Deckerville, Ubly and Bad Axe. He made the run six days a week, rain or shine, for years. He and Matie lived at 819 Ninth Street in Port Huron.
In 1973, he finally decided it was time to retire and move to Florida, where much of the family had migrated. Today, he lives at a Tandem Health Care nursing home in Lakeland. He's blind, nearly deaf and fragile, but don't think of him as decrepit. "I'm not sure what a 111-year-old man should look like, but he looks really good," said great-granddaughter Lisa Saxton. "He gets around (in a wheelchair). He goes everywhere. He has the neatest stories to tell and he's always giving me advice on marriage and raising kids.
"He can talk to you on any subject, especially women. He loves women. He's a trip, I'm telling you." His grandson visits nearly every day. Mrs. Saxton, who also lives nearby, often stops by with her 5-year-old son, Logan. The boy is Mr. McMorran's great-great grandson. Put another way, the boy's grandfather is Mr. McMorran's grandson. "He likes to hug Logan and hold his hand," Mrs. Saxton said. "Logan says his skin is nice -- all wrinkly and soft."
The family plans a small party, nothing elaborate, to celebrate birthday 111, a wonderfully odd number. Willard Scott plans a salute. The local papers will publish stories. Mr. McMorran doesn't dwell on the future, but he has said he's looking forward to New Year's Day and the dawn of a new century, the third one he has seen.
Don't try telling him the new century is already here. He remembers celebrating the first day of the 20th century (named for its final year) on Jan. 1, 1901, and he knows the 21st century (named for 2100) has not yet started. If that seems old-fashioned ... well, at 111, old-fashioned is cool.
Then there's the matter of the palm reader's prediction, which once seemed ludicrous and now seems just a little foreboding. "Way back when ... when he was young, a palm reader told him he'd live to be 111," Grandson Bob McMorran said. "At the time, he thought it was a joke, but maybe that palm reader was right."