Acts of Kindness
America’s oldest veteran shares his life’s secrets at 109-years-old
Just wow. What an incredible journey. He lived through some of the most turbulent times in our nation's history and he did it so beautifully.
Kate Miano
08.26.21

Hearing the stories of our elders always strengthens a community. And if one of those older adults is also the oldest veteran in America, you can bet that he has pretty good stories and wisdom to share.

Today we are remembering Richard Overton, a man who until his recent death, was the oldest living veteran in America.

Born in 1906, he lived through a long and eventful century in American history.

Thankfully, he willingly shared advice about living a good and full life. Richard Arvin Overton was America’s oldest veteran, and the third oldest man in the world, but that never slowed him down.

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

He served in World War 2, and entered the military in 1940.

There, he was stationed in Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attacks. He served for all of World War Two, and then returned home to Texas to live out his days.

After the war ended, he built himself a house and lived humbly.

He settled down in Austin, Texas, and stayed there. He says that after he became a homeowner, he committed to only using and buying what he needed. Richard told National Geographic:

“I’m happy with my house, it’s all I need. I would buy one thing. I would use that one thing. I wouldn’t buy one thing and go buy another and go buy another.”

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

It’s a good reminder to us all that you don’t need to always be buying new items. His frugality extended even to his housing, as he continued to live in that same house for the rest of his life.

Though he lived below his means, he knew the importance of indulging every now and then.

Specifically, Richard loved his cigars. He said he smoked up to 12 cigars a day, and sometimes more than that. That’s pretty impressive, considering that he lived as long as he did.

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

He would savor the flavor of the cigars, and even smoked specifically so that he could get as much taste out of it as he could.

Although smoking isn’t healthy, most people would admit that America’s oldest veteran deserves to have the indulgence that he wants.

In addition to cigars, he also drank whiskey whenever he felt like it and had ice cream every night.

Overton also believed in going to church regularly.

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

For Richard, believing in God helped him feel protected and helped him throughout much of life.

In addition to having a personal relationship with God, he believed that Church helped made him who he is. He said:

“You learn something at church too. You learn how to live better, how to treat people. We don’t have all the answers. I’ve got to save some of the answers for somebody else to do…Good to have a spiritual life, but you’ve got to live it.”

flickr - Alper Çuğun
Source:
flickr - Alper Çuğun

He also shared a strong message of persistence and always trying your best.

This supercentenarian saw enough of life to know that you should never give up. He believed that always trying was essential to living a good life. He said:

“If you give up you’re through! You’re just doubting yourself…I may give out but I never give up.”

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

Overton’s resilience allowed him to live a long and full life where he got to experience so much, and see much of the world shift.

Although he’s now passed, he is still remembered for living an incredible life.

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

Richard died in 2018 at the age of 112. Up until that point, he had continued to live a life full of whiskey, church-going, and telling stories.

The grandson of a slave, he lived through an incredible and turbulent time in America.

Richard was part of the World War 2 effort, the end of the Jim Crow era and subsequent passing of the Civil Rights Act, and the election of the first Black president, among many other moments.

YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - National Geographic

Overton certainly lived an incredible life. One of the most incredible aspects of Richard was his ability to embrace joy in the small details.

Learn just how incredible his life really was in the video below!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

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By Kate Miano
hi@sbly.com
Kate Miano is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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