Richard Overton, America's Oldest WWII Veteran, Turns 112

In this March 23, 2017, file photo, Richard Overton leaves the court after a presentation honoring him as the oldest living American war veteran, in a basketball game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs. (AP
In this March 23, 2017, file photo, Richard Overton leaves the court after a presentation honoring him as the oldest living American war veteran, in a basketball game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs. (AP

He's met celebrities, presidents and comedians. He's experienced war and peace. He's accumulated countless accolades.

But for America's oldest living World War II veteran Richard Overton, there's nothing better than hanging out on his front porch, smoking cigars and greeting passers-by who treat him, rightly so, like the neighborhood king.

On Friday, Overton will celebrate his 112th birthday with a community celebration at his East Austin home on the street that now bears his name -- Richard Overton Avenue. The birthday bash, hosted by Austin hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm and featuring music by DJ Kay Cali, will be 4 to 7 p.m.

"I love to have a birthday," Overton said Thursday from his porch. "That's another day. I hope I live another five years."

Overton is believed to be the oldest living American and the third-oldest person in the world.The super-centenarian has no plans of slowing down. Since his last birthday, he's kept busy. "I'm enjoying myself," he said.

Last month, he flew in a private jet to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he received a private tour and met former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Overton's buddy Allen Bergeron, who works with Austin veterans, introduced him to billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert Smith, who made the trip possible.

This type of magical moment tends to happen to the veteran nowadays.

In March, he visited an East Austin mural on the corner of 12th and Chicon streets, where a portrait of him graces a utility box in front of a mural featuring African-American and Latino cultural icons such as Selena. Artist Chris Rogers included Overton in the new piece after the artist's original mural, painted in 2014, was removed.

Last summer, Overton's home of more than 70 years received major repairs that helped make his sanctuary safer and more accessible. Overton enjoyed central air and heating for the first time since he built the home in the 1940s. The makeover, provided by the Meals on Wheels Central Texas' home repair program, has allowed him to continue living in his own home.

Overton, who was born on May 11, 1906, in Bastrop County, served in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1945 as part of the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion.

In 2016, his family created an online fundraising page to hire round-the-clock home health care to keep him living independently. The latest fundraising goal is $400,000.

"He's like a gift to Austin that keeps giving," said his friend Steve Wiener. "He's a crackerjack. When people sense his humor and playfulness, it just lightens everyone's step."

When asked about the secret to a long life, Overton glanced at his cigar and said, "Don't give up. Keep on living."

This article is written by Nancy Flores from Austin American-Statesman and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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