NEW YORK — Alexander Imich, a Polish-born psychic researcher who was certified the oldest man on earth, died Sunday morning at a senior residence in Manhattan. He had turned 111 on Feb. 4.
His death was reported by a grandniece, Karen Bogen, in Rhode Island, and a longtime friend in New York, Michael Mannion, who had visited him Saturday night at the Esplanade, the senior home at West End Avenue and 74th Street where Imich had been living since 1986.
Imich became the world’s oldest validated male supercentenarian (those over 110), according to the Gerontology Research Group of Torrance, California, when the previous record-holder, Arturo Licata of Italy, died on April 24 at 111 years and 357 days. At the time, 66 women were officially older than Imich, with the oldest being 116.
Imich had willed his body to Mount Sinai Medical Center for study, Mannion said.
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In an interview with The New York Times on April 30, Imich made light of his longevity record, saying, “Not like it’s the Nobel Prize.”
“I never thought I’d be that old,” he said.
He attributed his long life to the fact that he and his wife, Wela, a painter and therapist who died in 1986, never had children. (In addition to Bogen, he is survived by an 84-year-old nephew, Jan Imich, in London.) He also exercised, ate sparingly and never drank alcohol.
He said “the aeroplane” was the greatest invention he witnessed in his lifetime; he was born 10 months before the flight of the Wright Brothers.
Imich was born into a well-to-do secular Jewish family on Feb. 4, 1903, in Czestochowa in southern Poland, a city known for its famous painting of the Black Madonna. His father owned a decorating business.
Young Alex was thwarted in an early desire to become a captain in the Polish navy, which he laid to anti-Semitism. He turned to zoology and was also stymied, so he switched to chemistry.
In the early 1930s, he began researching a Polish medium known as Matylda S., who was renowned for séances that reportedly called up the dead. He detailed the encounters in a German scholarly journal in 1932 and an anthology he edited, “Incredible Tales of the Paranormal,” published by Bramble Books in 1995, when he was 92.
With the outbreak of World War II, he and his wife fled to Soviet-occupied Bialystok, Poland, where they were sent to a Soviet labor camp. Once freed, they moved to Samarkand, in what is now Uzbekistan, and then back to Poland, where they found many family members had died in the Holocaust. In 1951 they immigrated to Waterbury, Connecticut.
Mannion said Imich’s last hours were spent babbling in Polish and Russian and agitatedly communicating with the spirits he felt were around him.