It's hard not to admire Richard Overton. He fought for his country in the Second World War, built his home with his own two hands, puts the occasional splash of whiskey in his morning cup of coffee and smokes cigars every single day. Oh—and did we mention that he is 109 years old?
Overton celebrated his most recent birthday on May 11, and he began his day the way he has for the past 90 years or so—with a cigar. He rose at 3 a.m. (not unusual for him) and took a seat on the front porch of his home in Texas. Then he lit a cigar, the first of many that he would smoke that day. Later in the day, he enjoyed a few whiskey cocktails, the only medicine he claims he takes.
Overton is not only a veteran of the U.S. Army, he is the oldest living U.S. veteran of World War II. Fittingly, he has been honored by his president and governor, and his neighbors revel in his spirit and seemingly boundless energy. While he smokes inexpensive, machine-made cigars that you won't read about in this magazine, he smokes them like a true aficionado. "I don't inhale them," he says. "It's the good taste."
He smokes about a dozen a day, putting him in the caliber of famed actor George Burns, who smoked 10 to 15 cigars a day, and was on our cover in Winter 1994, and British statesman Winston Churchill, who smoked about 10 per day, and graced our cover twice, in Autumn 1993 and in December 2002. Each man enjoyed cigars at a heroic rate. Burns enjoyed machine-made El Productos, Sir Winston a more genteel handmade Romeo y Julieta. Both men lived long, rich lives—but neither quite as long as Overton. You can read more about his extraordinary life starting on page 151.
While no other military man can claim a milestone like Overton, he is one of a community of cigar lovers in the armed forces. The pages of history are filled with stories of men in uniform who puffed cigars, from high-ranking officers like Gen. George S. Patton, Gen. Tommy Franks (who appeared on our December 2003 cover) and Prime Minister Churchill, to enlisted men and women who share their smoking photos in our Moments to Remember section.
The cigar is often one of the few outlets of relaxation available to those in uniform when serving abroad. For a soldier, airman, marine or sailor far from home, often in hostile territory, that half hour spent smoking a cigar is sometimes the best portion of the day.
So join us in celebrating the long, cigar-smoking life of Richard Overton, and thanking him—and all who wear the uniform—for their service.