Over the last few months, Richard Overton has had to give up a few things. First, he gave up driving the Ford pickup he had owned for years. Then, after a bad bout with pneumonia in November, he eased up on drinking his beloved whiskey -- which, along with cigars, he calls his secret to long life.
But when you're the oldest World War II veteran in the country and you're turning 110, very few things can bring your mood down. On Wednesday, Overton celebrated his birthday surrounded by family, friends and admirers on the front lawn of his home in East Austin.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that he chomped happily on a cigar as family and friends, some calling him "Pop," hugged and congratulated him.
"How do I feel?" Overton said. "I feel good. I feel like I'm 50."
Overton, who was born in Bastrop County in 1906, served in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1945 as part of the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. After the war, he returned to Austin, and he has lived in the same home ever since.
When new neighbors move in, he tells them about the history of the neighborhood, telling some that their homes used to be horse stables and others, who have trouble with stubborn onions growing in their yards, that the spot where their homes sit used to be someone's garden.
He once told a neighbor about a time he saw a black man beaten to death during the segregation era. But despite everything he's seen, his family and friends say, Overton is always upbeat.
"He's got such a positive attitude," said Sharon Choate, who has attended Overton's birthday celebrations since 2009, "that's probably why he's lived so long."
Even at 110, he can still be found on his porch most days, watching the goings and comings in the neighborhood. He keeps an eye on people moving in and out, and he waves hello to children and families that pass by.
"He considers himself our neighborhood watchdog, and he knows everything that's going on," neighbor Helen Elliott said. "I don't think the neighborhood would be what it is without him. He's our legend, our icon."