The world’s oldest living World War II veteran, Richard Overton, just celebrated his 111th birthday with a huge block party.
Richard Overton, the nation’s oldest World War II veteran, died Thursday night, a family member said. He was 112.
President Barack Obama met Overton in 2013 for a Veterans Day ceremony and led a standing ovation for him at Arlington National Cemetery. Overton later said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.
“With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Thursday night. “Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans.”
On Twitter, the U.S. Army hailed Overton as a “hero to us all.”
Born May 11, 1906, near Austin, Overton volunteered to join the Army in his 30s and served from 1940 to 1945. The all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion he fought in “island hopped” throughout the South Pacific, KVUE-TV reported, taking him to Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima.
“You heard in Iwo Jima the water turned to blood? Well, it did,” he told KVUE in 2013. “When you’re talking about some of the stuff we had to go through, I never want to go through that again.”
Overton left the Army in October 1945 as a technician fifth grade, KVUE reported. That year, he built a house in East Austin that he called home for the rest of his life. On his birthday this year, KVUE reported, the city renamed the street Overton lived on in his honor.
Overton worked at local furniture stores and then as a courier for the Texas Department of the Treasury at the Texas State Capitol, KVUE reported. After retiring, he filled his time with friends and family and spent afternoons on his porch.
“He considers himself our neighborhood watchdog, and he knows everything that’s going on,” neighbor Helen Elliott told the Austin American-Statesman in 2016. “I don’t think the neighborhood would be what it is without him. He’s our legend, our icon.”
His secrets to longevity? Overton told KVUE that smoking a cigar every day, having an occasional whiskey and surrounding himself with good friends helped him stay in good health.
Before being diagnosed with another bout of pneumonia this month, KVUE reported, he also battled the infection in November 2015. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $450,000 to help pay for in-home care so he would not have to move to a nursing home.
He died Thursday night at a rehab facility in Austin, said Shirley Overton, whose husband was Overton’s cousin and longtime caretaker.
“They had done all they could,” she said.
Overton was also believed to be the oldest living man in the U.S.
Contributing: KVUE-TV, Austin, The Associated Press
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