On December 27, 2018 Richard Overton passed away at the ripe old age of 112 and 230 days. He was the oldest living man in the U.S. and America’s oldest veteran. Born on May 11, 1906, he celebrated 112 birthdays.
When Richard Overton was born, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States, and the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in America, was only a few decades old (for contrast, Richard was nearly 60 when the Civil Rights Act passed). That’s a long time to be alive. That’s a lot of history to live through.
Many would say that simply existing for many years is not all that impressive. What mattered was what you did with that time. What mattered was how you lived. Richard lived!
Even if he never became rich or powerful. At the personal level, he triumphed over segregation and racism – and was never made bitter by the hatred and bigotry that far too many of his fellow Texans (Americans) had for him for far too much of his life. He served honorably in one of history’s few just wars. He was a hard worker, and he built his own home (there’s a big pecan tree in his front yard that’s still going strong after 70 years). He liked to sit on his porch and talk with his neighbors. He never had children, but he was close with a big family who he loved and they loved him in return. He stuck around long enough to meet presidents and athletes and billionaires. He enjoyed 12 cigars a day, bowls of ice cream, and a touch of whiskey with his morning coffee. He was beloved by his community, his city, and, eventually, his country.
In short, it was a life of many years but also of many experiences. He was clearly gifted at birth with a strong body, but he had an even stronger soul. Because it’s much harder to live to 112 and still be a happy, friendly, funny person than it is to simply hold on grimly to existence.
No one would say that Richard was taken from us too soon because, clearly, he was given plenty of time on this planet. But the important thing is what he did with that time. And I can say, unequivocally, that this man lived.
I hope my life will be as fruitful as Richards. Thank you sir for inspiring us all.
R.I.P. And if you want some lessons and wisdom from Richard, you might like this piece.
By Brian Nadon