The nation is bidding farewell to America’s oldest man and World War II veteran as Richard Overton passed away at the age of 112 in Austin, Texas on Thursday.
Overton was hospitalized with pneumonia at St. David’s Medical Center for over a week, and after being released on Christmas Eve he entered a rehabilitation facility in Austin, which is where he took his last breath, according to a family member, Stars and Stripes reported.
We are saddened that Mr. Richard Overton, the nation's oldest man, 3rd oldest living man in the world, and our Nation's oldest living veteran born in 1906, has died at age 112. "You don't know when you get here, you don't know when you go, it's in God's hands" – #RichardOverton pic.twitter.com/bZE48egckZ
— Texas Veterans Commission (@TexasVeterans) December 28, 2018
Living in East Austin for 72 years, Overton was well-known and soon gained national fame for his age and WWII service.
Just nine months after Pearl Harbor, Overton enlisted in 1942 into the U.S. Army and served until 1945. He enjoyed recalling to his experiences in the war, from landing on beaches under fire and ducking bullets to clearing out fellow soldiers from the battlefield, according to Stars and Stripes.
In 2013, former President Barack Obama proclaimed Overton’s birthday as “Richard A. Overton Day.”
In his memory, let’s take a look at some of the ways he embodied America during his lifetime:
1. His love of fine cigars
Averaging 12 cigars a day, Overton was often seen smoking on the front porch of his home, which he built in 1945. In May of 2017, Overton was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia, as IJR previously reported.
Though his age didn’t hold him back, one of the things Overton had credited his longevity to were cigars.
“I’ve been smoking cigars from when I was 18 years old; I’m still a smoking them, 12 a day,” Overton told Fox News in 2014.
In 2014, The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi profiled Overton:
“Overton used to start his days with some whiskey in his coffee, and he still adds a teaspoon from time to time. ‘It’s just like medicine,’ he said. Overton smokes cigars daily, too. ‘I’m smoking one now,’ he said from Austin.”
2. His impressive collection of guns
The late WWII veteran had credited his life to “smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and being able to defend himself and his country with firearms,” as IJR reported.
He once showed off his gun collection, including a shotgun and two revolvers in a Guns.com video.
Watch the video below:
3. His unwavering faith in God and church
Along with his cigars, whiskey and guns, Overton gave all of the credit to his faith in God and Sunday church for helping him survive wars.
“God give it to me. They tried to kill me in the Army, but God wouldn’t let ’em. I stayed for nearly five years and I didn’t get a scratch on me,” Overton once said about his time in the military and his long life, according to IJR.
4. His incredible military service
Born and raised in Texas, Overton entered the U.S. Army on September 3, 1940.
He was in the segregated unit when he arrived at Pearl Harbor, touring the South Pacific from 1940 to 1945, and was part of the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion the last three years.
By the end of his service, he had received a technician fifth-grade rank.
“He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering,” Obama said of Overton, honoring him during a 2013 Veteran’s Day ceremony, CBS reported. “He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God.'”
5. His perseverance through life’s challenges
From fighting in wars to facing obstacles at home, Overton always held his head up high and kept going through it all.
He managed to charm enough generous Americans to get funding for upgrades to his house so that he wouldn’t have to go to a nursing home. He pushed through a hospital visit for pneumonia in 2017, and even when his bank account was hacked, he didn’t let it bother him.
“Hopefully justice will be done,” Overton simply said after the incident.
Texas political figures pay tribute to the WWII veteran
Governor of Texas Greg Abbott called the late WWII veteran an “American icon and a Texas legend” in a statement reflecting on his life.
“With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him,” Abbott continued. “Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans.”
One of my favorite moments at the Governor’s Mansion was celebrating the 110th birthday of Richard Overton—the oldest WWII Veteran. Today we mourn the loss of this legendary American hero. May he Rest In Peace. #txlege pic.twitter.com/zIuGH3mDzM
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) December 28, 2018
Others joined in to remember him:
Richard Overton R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/1irIKpepbU
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) December 28, 2018
Richard Overton: a life well lived. pic.twitter.com/3bXpuvR6J6
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) December 28, 2018
Joined by Austin @MayorAdler, we shared a celebration of his life that he very much enjoyed.
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) December 28, 2018
Sad to learn of the passing of Richard Overton, whose life peronsified service to our country and local community. I was blessed to know him and will always remember him as the star of the show when we opened the new VA clinic in Austin. https://t.co/xhcsKivPzo
— Michael McCaul (@RepMcCaul) December 28, 2018
“We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State,” Abbott said in his statement, honoring the death of America’s oldest man and WWII veteran Richard Overton.