The global average in life expectancy has risen significantly in recent decades, mostly due to improved health, lifestyle, safety, and diet. According to the World Health Statistics 2017 report, with an average of 83.7 years, Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world. Of course, there are many people from other countries who live longer than the Japanese average, but not many manage to become centenarians, people who have lived for 100 years. An even rarer occurrence is to find someone who has lived long enough to celebrate their 110th birthday, or a supercentenarian.
According to the Gerontology Research Group, it has been estimated that there are only 300 to 450 living supercentenarians in the world, but they’ve managed to verify only 50 of them. One of those verified people is Richard Arvine Overton, the oldest living World War II veteran.
Overton has certainly seen quite a lot throughout his long life, which began on May 11, 1906. The cigar-loving 111-year-old veteran joined the U.S. Army in Texas on September 3, 1942, and served during WWII as a member of the infantry. Richard participated in battles across the Pacific and was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also took part in the clashes in Palau, Iwo Jima, and Guam, and left the army when the war was over.
After he returned to Texas, the veteran worked at several furniture stores before getting a job at the Texas Department of the Treasury in Austin, where he still lives in the same house he built almost 70 years ago. Richard never fathered any children, although he’s been married twice. He became the oldest surviving WWII veteran on May 3, 2016, when Frank Levingston, another veteran and supercentenarian, died at the age of 110. Richard Overton celebrated his 110th birthday a week later.
The veteran gained fame during Memorial Day in 2013, when he met President Obama in the White House. He was also present at the Veteran’s Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where the President himself praised the veteran: “I want you to know a little something about Mr. Overton here. He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, “I only got out of there by the grace of God.” When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas to a nation bitterly divided by race. And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high.”
In 2015, a short documentary was made of the life of Richard Overton by the Austin filmmakers Rocky Conly and Matt Cooper, in which Richard spoke about his habits and daily routines. The supercentenarian stated that he’s still enjoying cigars and whiskey, while he’s also proclaimed to be the oldest American smoker.
In November 2015, Overton was diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized. Today he lives in his home in Austin but is in need of 24/7 home care. In December 2016 a fundraiser was begun on the GoFundMe website with the purpose of helping Richard continue his life in his home instead of in a nursing center. So far, nearly 4,670 people have donated and the sum of nearly $220,000 has been raised.
Overton wants to spend the rest of his days in his house in Austin, Texas, where he has been living since the end of World War II.
The goal of the fundraiser is $250,000 and we hope that this veteran will get to stay in his home until the end of his amazingly long life.