Funeral services were held in Brooklyn on Monday for a man who was one of the oldest living Americans until his death last week. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Just three weeks ago Ernest Peronneau strolled into his 112th birthday party surrounded by friends and loved ones. During funeral services on Monday family members vowed to stay upbeat as they said goodbye.
"He's seen history. You know we sit in a classroom all the time and we think the history books are the law. That's what happened, that's how it happened. He actually lived the history," said Zanetta Pettigrew, Peronneau's great-niece.
Peronneau was born in South Carolina but spent most of his life here. He was a single father to two boys following the death of his wife in 1935 and outliving both of his sons. Over the years he told many a story to his many nieces, nephews and cousins around the country.
"He was a very knowledgeable individual. He had deep-felt caring about people. He was just very involved in your life, and he was a blessing," said Jeffery Caffee, Peronneau's great-nephew.
"Just some of the things that he saw, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Sox Scandal, World War I, World War II, I mean he was just a wealth of knowledge," said William Caffee, Peronneau's great-great-nephew.
Peronneau attributed his longevity to clean living, saying he was never a smoker or whisky drinker. He made a living as a brick mason, becoming one of the first black men to join the bricklayers union.
"He was a very good bricklayer. He made fireplaces for so many people in the family. He was a great bricklayer," recalled Lynette Leibowitz, Peronneau's niece.
Relatives say he was good for plenty of advice too, including how to avoid an argument with someone.
"Just just ask them, 'Are you finished?' And he let it go in one ear and out the other,"
said Ayaba Bennett, Peronneau's great-grand-niece.
But those who loved him say his best-known tip remains.
"Have a positive attitude, have a positive attitude in life. And he said 'Be a copy cat. I lived to 112 and you can too,'" Leibowitz said.