He was the oldest man in the United States and the oldest World War II veteran which are astonishing facts to couple in the same sentence. The Army veteran Richard Overton was 112 but succumbed to death from pneumonia at a rehab facility in Austin, Texas.
Overton was a longtime resident of Austin, according to CNN affiliate KXAN, living on a street — Richard Overton Avenue — renamed for him.
Overton was in his 30s when he volunteered for the Army and was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack in 1941 and served with the 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit that served on various islands in the Pacific.
He once said that one secret to his long life was smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, which he often was found doing on the porch of his Austin home. Overton told CNN at the time he didn’t like thinking or talking about the war, saying he “forgot all that stuff.”
In 2015, Overton was the subject of a short documentary titled “Mr. Overton” by Austin-based filmmakers Rocky Conly and Matt Cooper. He said in the film he loved to eat soup, corn, and fish, and drink milk. “And ice cream. I eat ice cream every night. It makes me happy,” he said. Especially butter pecan, he said.
“I still walk, I still talk, and I still drive,” Overton said on camera, before hopping into his Ford F100 Custom pickup truck. Overton also said in the film he liked to go to church and enjoyed the singing. He also loved caring for his cats.
Overton’s family and friends celebrated his 112th birthday in May by visiting him at his home, KXAN reported.
“I feel fine every day,” KXAN quoted him as telling photographers at the event. “No pain and no aches.”
At the party, a friend had made T-shirts to sell to raise support for Overton’s around-the-clock at-home care. On them, the secret to longevity Overton reportedly gave TV host and comedian Steve Harvey: “Keep living, don’t die.”
In 2013, he was honored by former President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. “He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said. ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God.”
In a statement Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Overton “an American icon and a Texas legend.”
“With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him,” Abbott said. “Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans. We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State.”
Ref. foxcarolina.com, associated press, msn/news/CNN
Photo courtesy of Bing via townhall.com