Richard Overton, the world’s oldest living World War II veteran, has seen a lot over the years. And we’re not just talking about the war. He’s been able to meet Presidents, see the world change technology over and over again and will live to see even more: he just turned 110 years old.
Overton was born May 11, 1906, and lives in the same home he purchased after his service in World War II. Overton, who was born in Bastrop County in 1906, served in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1945 as part of the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. After the war, he returned to Austin, and he has lived in the same home ever since.
When asked how it feels to be 110, Overton simply replies, “Feel good. It feel like I’m 50.”
When new neighbors move in, he tells them about the history of the neighborhood, telling some that their homes used to be horse stables and others, who have trouble with stubborn onions growing in their yards, that the spot where their homes sit used to be someone’s garden.
He once told a neighbor about a time he saw a black man beaten to death during the segregation era. But despite everything he’s seen, his family and friends say, Overton is always upbeat.
“He’s got such a positive attitude,” said Sharon Choate, who has attended Overton’s birthday celebrations since 2009, “that’s probably why he’s lived so long.”
Even at 110, he can still be found on his porch most days, watching the goings and comings in the neighborhood. He keeps an eye on people moving in and out, and he waves hello to children and families that pass by.
“He considers himself our neighborhood watchdog, and he knows everything that’s going on,” neighbor Helen Elliott said. “I don’t think the neighborhood would be what it is without him. He’s our legend, our icon.
So, what’s the secret to his long life?
Richard says it’s simple, smoking a cigar every now and again, maybe a shot of whiskey and surrounding yourself with great friends and family.
Happy birthday Richard. We salute you.