Brad Hunter, Toronto Sun
, Last Updated: 12:10 PM ET
Richard Overton is no snowflake.
The 111-year-old Second World War veteran didn’t name kale and quinoa as his magic bullets for a long life.
No, the United States’ oldest living Second World War vet said his secret was smoking cigars and drinking whisky. And he says he’s not going to give them up at this stage in the game.
He puffs happily away on 12 to 18 stogies a day.
In declaring Thursday Richard Overton Day, Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler tweeted: “Celebrating Richard Overton’s 111th birthday is a chance to celebrate what is best about our country and our community. Happy birthday!”
Overton was in his 30s when he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army where he found himself at Pearl Harbor in the days after the horrific Japanese sneak attack.
The tough Texan served in the Pacific Theatre with the Army’s all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion from 1942 to 1945. He saw action in Anguar, Peleliu and the horrific battle of Iwo Jima.
Then he went home to Texas where he worked in the furniture business and later for the government.
He has lived in the same home in Austin since returning from the Pacific. It was recently renamed Richard Overton Ave.
In 2013, Overton was honoured by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The vet added that one of the greatest moments in his life was seeing a black man become president.
At his birthday lunch, catfish (his favourite) was served and a birthday cake which read “Happy 111th Birthday Pop!” was presented.
But time catches up, even to tough old birds like Overton, and in January he was threatened with having to leave his home for an assisted living facility.
His third cousin Volma Overton Jr. started a GoFundMe campaign to provide care for Richard. And it worked.
“We all knew that if you move Richard out of his home, he’d die,” Overton Jr. said. “That home is everything for him.”