WALNUT CREEK -- James Foster McCoubrey, at age 111 acknowledged as the oldest living man in California -- and possibly in the world -- died Friday in Walnut Creek from natural causes.
McCoubrey had been a contender for recognition as the oldest man in the world since June 12, when the man who previously held that designation died in Japan.
"I think he was very proud of the fact he lived that long," said Patricia Salveson, McCoubrey's only child and a Walnut Creek resident. "He said, 'I must have good genes!'"
Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, he grew up in that area and later in Massachusetts. His formal schooling ended in the eighth grade, when he went to work to help support his family, later taking high school classes at night. He enlisted to fight in World War I, but he was underage, and his mother foiled his plan on the eve of his departure to Europe, said granddaughter Beth Salveson of Walnut Creek.
He spent his working life in the insurance business and for many years operated a heating oil business in Massachusetts. He moved to Walnut Creek in 1992 after the death of his wife, Rose, to live with his daughter and son-in-law; he and Rose had been married 69 years.
At the age of 95, McCoubrey learned to use the computer; he surfed the Internet and visited senior chat rooms, where he enjoyed letting people believe he was only 65, Beth Salveson said.
"He did not resist change -- he embraced change, and he enjoyed new technology," she said. "The Internet, he very much enjoyed that, and it allowed him to interact with people and help keep him vital.
"Everybody gravitated to him," Beth Salveson continued. "He was something of a raconteur because he liked to tell stories." He did that to the end, she said.
At 110, he became a "supercentenarian," his age verified by the Gerontology Research Group. Upon the death of the previous oldest man in the world in Japan on June 12, McCoubrey was the oldest man in the world whose documentation had been verified by the group, according to Robert Young, senior database administrator for GRG and a senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records.
"Ninety percent of supercentenarians are women; of the 56 oldest people in the world, 54 are women," Young said Wednesday.
Young conceded there may be men older than McCoubrey in California and elsewhere but that the GRG doesn't have sufficient proof, such as official birth records.
McCoubrey is survived by daughter Patricia and son-in-law James Salveson, his grandchildren Beth and James Salveson, and his four great-grandchildren. A private memorial service is scheduled for July 19 in Walnut Creek.