Morrie Markoff, considered the oldest man in the United States, dies at 110

Morrie Markoff, a supercentenarian blogger and scrap metal sculptor believed to be the oldest man in the United States and whose brain was donated for research into so-called super-aging, died June 3 at his home in downtown Los Angeles. Angeles. He was 110 years old.

He had two strokes in recent weeks, his daughter, Judith Markoff Hansen, said, confirming his death.

People who live to 110 years or older are considered supercentenarians, and the Gerontology Research Group, in Los Angeles, lists more than 150 of them worldwide.

Mr. Markoff, born in New York on January 11, 1914, six months before the start of World War I, joined the club this year and was considered the oldest living man in the United States after his death, in January of Francis. Zouein, aged 113, in California.

As of April, the world's oldest living man is believed to be England's John Alfred Tinniswood at 111, according to Guinness World Records. (Guinness lists María Branyas Morera, a California native living in Spain, as the world's oldest woman, at 117.)

When Mr. Markoff heard the news of his rise to the top of the list, “he just smiled and said, 'Well, someone has to be there,'” his daughter said in an interview.

He stood out not only for his longevity but also for his lucidity unusual for his age. Until his final months, she pored over the Los Angeles Times every morning, discussed the war in Ukraine and other world events and posted dispatches about her life on his blog.

“He believed that if he stayed active, he would live, and he really wanted to live,” Ms. Hansen said.

Mr. Markoff has risen beyond the level of what researchers call a super-ager: a person over 80 whose brain appears decades younger. And that made his brain very valuable for research, said Tish Hevel, CEO of the Brain Donor Project, a Naples, Fla.-based nonprofit affiliated with the National Institutes of Health.

“There is a critical need for this tissue for neuroscience research,” Hevel said. “One in five of us today suffers from some type of neurological disease or disorder, many of which develop late in life. Scientists can learn a great deal from Mr. Markoff's tissues about how to stay healthy into old age. It's an incredible gift he gives us.”

Morris Markoff was born in an East Harlem tenement, one of four children of Max and Rose Markoff, Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a cabinetmaker. His mother “was a street vendor who sold kitchen items,” Mr. Markoff once said in an interview posted on his blog.

His childhood family of six shared a 400-square-foot apartment that had no closets, hot water or toilet (they used one in the hallway) and was infested with vermin and bed bugs. “The burning of bed springs was an annual ritual among tenement dwellers,” she wrote in a 2017 autobiography, “Keep Breathing: Recollections From a 103-Year-Old.”

He overcame the infection during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which claimed the life of a brother. He stayed at school until eighth grade before training as a train driver.

In the late 1930s, Mr. Markoff moved to Los Angeles to take a job with a vacuum cleaner company. He arranged for her girlfriend, Betty Goldmintz, to move from New York, and the couple married on November 4, 1938. They remained together for 81 years, until her death in 2019.

Mr. Markoff later accepted a new job with the company in San Francisco, but was transferred back to Los Angeles before World War II. In 1943 he worked as a machinist for a defense contractor that produced artillery shells. After the war, he and a partner opened a series of small appliance businesses in Los Angeles.

Mr. Markoff, a photography enthusiast, discovered a passion for sculpture while repairing a toilet in 1960; when he removed a broken copper float, he saw that it resembled a ballerina's tutu, so he cut the float in half, soldered it to a shield, “and, 'voila,' it was a ballerina lifting one leg in a practice motion,” he wrote in his memoirs. “I had created something.” He held his first gallery exhibition in Los Angeles at the age of 100.

Mr. Markoff was days away from death and no longer lucid when his daughter decided that his brain should be turned to science; he had expressed support for organ donation, he said. It is believed to be the oldest cognitively healthy brain ever donated, Ms. Hevel said.

Mr. Markoff attributed his longevity to walking regularly; He and his wife, who lived to be 103, often completed three miles a day into their 90s, holding hands, they joked, “to keep themselves upright,” her daughter said. He believed in eating simply, rarely drank alcohol and avoided plastic bottled water.

“They believed those bottles were poison,” Ms. Hansen said. When public health concerns began to arise about some of the bottles, she added, “she called me and said, 'J, did you read the paper?' We were ahead of our time.”

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