America lost its oldest veteran on Thursday in Texas. Richard Overton, who served in the Army during World War II died at the age of 112. He credited God, whiskey and cigars for his unbelievable longevity, according to reports. Overton had been hospitalized for the last week with pneumonia, his family said.
Shirley Overton, whose husband was Richard’s cousin, said the vet died Thursday evening at a rehab facility in Austin.
Overton was not just the oldest veteran, but was thought to be the oldest living American. He was born in 1906 in Bastrop County, just outside Austin, Texas.
The World War II veteran was in his 30s when he volunteered for the Army. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese surprise attack in 1941.
Overton served in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion from 1942 to 1945, a period that included stops in Angaur, Palau; Peleliu, Micronesia; and Iwo Jima, Japan.
Former President Barack Obama honored Overton on Veteran’s Day in 2013 in front of thousands in the nation’s capital.
“His service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high,” Obama said.
Overton, in later years, was often seen on the porch of his home, which he built in East Austin in 1945.
“He’s like a gift to Austin that keeps giving,” Overton’s friend Steve Wiener said last summer. “He’s a crackerjack. When people sense his humor and playfulness, it just lightens everyone’s step.”
The veteran’s favorite pastime was smoking his 12 daily cigars on his front porch, which friends dubbed his “stage.”
He had lived on his street since returning from war. It was named in his honor for his 111th birthday last year.
He was grateful to be the nation’s oldest veteran. And he offered this important advice for living a long life: “Keep living, don’t die.”