Published May 26, 2013
For his 107th Memorial Day, Richard Arvine Overton, who saw many of his fellow soldiers fall in the line of duty in World War II and even more die over the following decades, is planning a quiet day at the Texas home he built after returning home from World War II.
He wouldn’t want it any other way.
Overton, who is believed to be the nation's oldest veteran, told FoxNews.com he’ll likely spend the day on the porch of his East Austin home with a cigar nestled in his right hand, perhaps with a cup of whiskey-stiffened coffee nearby.
“I don’t know, some people might do something for me, but I’ll be glad just to sit down and rest,” the Army veteran said during a phone interview. “I’m no young man no more.”
Overton, who was born on May, 11, 1906, in Texas’ Bastrop County, has gotten used to being the center of attention of late. In addition to being formally recognized by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell on May 9, Overton traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 17 as part of Honor Flight, a nonprofit group that transports veterans free of charge to memorials dedicated to their service. Despite serving in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945, including stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima to name a few, it was Overton’s first time in the nation’s capital.
“I was really honored when I got there,” Overton said of his visit to the World War II Memorial. “There were so many people, it was up in the thousands. And we danced and we jumped … them people tickled me to death. It made me happy as can be.”
The entire experience gave Overton a “good thrill,” he said, and the significance of visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at a time when an African-American holds the country’s highest elected office was not lost him.
“I was very, very happy,” Overton continued, adding that he wasn’t deterred by Washington’s expansive National Mall. “At my age and my strength, I’m able to stand up and do anything. My mind is good, so I’m able to do what I want.”
Overton credits his longevity to aspirin, which he takes daily, and the relatively stress-free life he’s enjoyed since getting out of the service in October 1945. He then worked at local furniture stores before taking a position with the Texas Treasury Department in Austin. He married twice but never fathered any children and still attends church every Sunday.
“I got good health and I don’t take any medicine,” he said. “I also stay busy around the yards, I trim trees, help with the horses. The driveways get dirty, so I clean them. I do something to keep myself moving. I don’t watch television.”
Overton also passes his time with up to 12 cigars a day and a little whiskey in his morning coffee. The hooch helps keep Overton spry, he said.
“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” he said. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”
Overton’s secrets may be unorthodox to some, but it’s hard to argue with someone approaching supercentenarian status — an individual aged 110 or older. There are believed to be just 57 people worldwide that meet that classification, including 114-year-old Jeralean Talley, of Inkster, Mich., who is the oldest person in the United States according to the Gerontology Research Group. (Talley, who was born in 1899, reportedly celebrated her birthday on Thursday and passes her time listening to baseball on the radio and watching television.)
Among U.S. veterans, it’s extremely difficult — if not impossible — to confirm Overton’s place as the oldest living former soldier since just roughly 9 million of the nation’s 22 million vets are registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. But that didn’t stop the city of Austin from recognizing him as the oldest veteran in Texas during his birthday proclamation at City Hall. Mayor Leffingwell, in a statement to FoxNews.com, said Austin is “honored” to call Overton one of its own.
“I’ve spoken with Mr. Overton on a few different occasions, and admire his spirit for life and his country,” the statement read. “He is truly one of our unsung heroes and we are privileged that he calls Austin his home.”
Overton, for his part, believes he’s the oldest veteran in the country, although he said he feels decades younger and doesn’t really embrace the part. He wishes he could spend a few hours this Memorial Day reliving war stories with fellow veterans, but he’s outlived most — if not all — of them.
“I know I had someone from my platoon until recently, but he passed so now I don’t have anyone that I know,” he said. “So I feel lonesome by myself sometimes. I would love to ask some of them some questions, but nobody is here. Everybody’s passed.”