Secrets of Life and War and Staying Young – from America’s Oldest Living Veteran
This year’s Veteran’s Day Parade in Austin, Texas, was led by a local hero. Richard Overton, age 108, is thought to be America’s oldest living veteran, and he served as grand marshal of the festivities. Later on, relaxing on the front porch of his Austin home, Mr. Overton talked about his life, about the day, and how he has managed to stay healthy well into his second century.
Overton, a native Texan born in 1906, served in the Pacific with the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He saw action from 1942 to 1945. He is matter-of-fact talking about his experiences there:
War’s nothing to be into. You don’t want to go into the war if you don’t have to. But I had to go. I enjoyed it after I’d went and come back, but I didn’t enjoy it when I was over there. I had to do things I didn’t want to do.
Overton still lives in the house he bought when he came home from World War II. He paid $4,000 for the house. He said of the parade:
…fine, lovely, beautiful. The best one I’ve seen yet. It made me feel good. I appreciate everything they’re doing. I had my name and age on the side of the car, and they couldn’t believe it. I was still walking and talking and riding along and everything.
He’s doesn’t know why he’s still around.
You have to ask God about that. He brought me here and he’s taking care of me, and nothing I can do about it. I can talk about what he’s doing for me.
He believes staying active is important. He drives his old Ford truck and goes to church every Sunday. Sometimes he transports widowed friends to church, as well. He enjoys working in his yard.
Overton’s morning ritual used to include a little whiskey in his coffee, and he still occasionally indulges. “It’s just like medicine.” He still smokes cigars every day, as well. He told the Washington Post reporter, “I’m smoking one now.”