On Thursday, Richard Overton, the oldest veteran in the nation, passed away at age 112 while staying at a rehab facility. According to his family, Overton spent the last week in the hospital battling pneumonia. During World War II, Overton served in the Army, and previously credited his longevity to God, cigars, and whiskey.
Overton, who, according to a report by Fox News, was believed to be the oldest living American as well as the oldest US veteran, was born just outside of Austin, Texas in 1906. While in his 30s, Overton volunteered for the Army and ended up at Pearl Harbor just after the 1941 attack by the Japanese.
Between 1942 and 1945, Overton served in the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, which was comprised solely of black soldiers. During that time, he made stops in Angaur, Palau; Peleliu, Micronesia; and Iwo Jima, Japan.
In 2013, on Veterans Day, Overton was honored by then President Barack Obama.
“His service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home,” said Obama. “But this veteran held his head high.”
In his later years, Overton was often found on the porch of his East Austin home.
“He’s like a gift to Austin that keeps giving,” said Steve Winer, Overton’s friend, last summer. “He’s a crackerjack. When people sense his humor and playfulness, it just lightens everyone’s step.”
Overton was known for smoking 12 cigars each day while sitting on his porch, an area of his home that friends dubbed Overton’s “stage.”
On his 111th birthday, the street Overton lived on, a street he had called home since returning from the war, was named in his honor.
Overton also offered advice to those hoping to live a long life: “Keep living, don’t die.”