AUSTIN — Richard Overton is right where he wants to be.
He’s sitting in a lawn chair on the front porch of the Austin home he built nearly 70 years ago, working on his fifth Tampa Sweet cigar on a 91-degree sunny day. The smooth tunes of the Isley Brothers flow from a portable speaker. Birds are chirping in the late afternoon breeze.
“I’m feeling pretty good today,” Overton says, emphasizing the word pretty, because any day spent on this porch smoking cigars is a pretty good day for the 111-year-old.
This is where you’ll find the nation’s oldest veteran for 10 hours every day when the weather is nice. His friends call it his “stage.” It’s where Overton sits and thinks about life, his starting in 1906, the same year as the first wireless radio broadcast and a year before the paper towel was invented.
Richard Overton, 111, smokes a cigar on his Austin front porch among signs from his recent birthday celebration. Overton is the oldest living U.S. war veteran.
On this day, Overton is wearing a red cardigan buttoned over a powder blue polo, with light blue slacks and a black World War II veteran hat. He’s smiling and joking and feeling thankful. The previous week, Overton was wearing a hospital gown. He spent those sunny days stuck in a hospital bed with a 102-degree fever, in a non-smoking room, hooked to an IV as his body tried to fight off its latest bout of pneumonia. Overton prayed and flirted with nurses. Four days later, he was back where he wanted to be, on his stage with the birds and two packs of cigars.
Life has slowed year by year for the lifelong Austin resident. He was once a soldier in the U.S. military...