Richard Overton, America’s Oldest Veteran, Dies At 112, Credited Whiskey And Cigars For His Longevity

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Richard Overton was 36-years-old when he enlisted in the Army and joined an all-black engineer aviation battalion that brought him to the Pacific theater of World War II, including time in Pearl Harbor.

Overton, the oldest known World War II veteran, died this week after being hospitalized for pneumonia. The Austin, Texas, resident was also the oldest living man in the United States, KUT reported.

As he made it past 100 and then 110, Overton attracted national attention and gave interviews about his experiences in World War II. Overton said he considered himself lucky to be able to come home in one piece.

“I didn’t get no scratch on me,” he told NPR in a 2015 interview. “I’m glad I’m back home, and I’m glad I didn’t get like some of the others. Some got their arms off. Some got their leg off. Some lost their body. Some lost their soul.”

Richard Overton returned to Austin after the war, where he built a home and worked at a furniture store. He remained in his home until his death, though got some help from Meals on Wheels Central Texas and the Home Depot Foundation with renovations that made it easier for him to live there.

Overton had some honors along the way. In 2013, President Barack Obama invited him to Washington, D.C., for Veterans Day, and he had breakfast with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

But Richard Overton also fell on some hard times. Just months before his death, Richard’s cousin reported that someone had gotten access to the man’s bank account and taken out a significant amount. As Newsweek reported, the cousin reported the theft to police.

The identify theft garnered nationwide attention, with many news outlets sharing the story and prompting a number of people to reach out on social media to offer help. Others donated to a GoFundMe account that family members had previously set up to help pay for his living expenses.

Richard Overton still seemed to enjoy his life very much, and said in a 2017 interview on Fox News Radio that he thought whiskey and cigars helped him to live so long.

“Well, I always drink a little bit. That’s kept me alive, that’s why I’m living so long,” he said. “Makes you happier. It’s the same as medicine if you take it right.”

In the hours since his death was first reported, many people in Austin went to the home of Richard Overton, leaving flowers on the porch in a makeshift memorial.