Happy Birthday, Mr. Overton

Happy Birthday, Mr. Overton
Photos/David Yellen

It’s impossible not to admire Richard Overton. On Friday he celebrated his birthday—his 112th birthday—and he’s the oldest man alive in the United States. He smoked his first cigar in 1924, at the age of 18, and when I reached out to him on Friday at about 2:30 p.m. his time, he had already smoked six. He also enjoys the occasional sip of whisky. 

Sign me up for that way of life.

The first time I spoke to him, a few years ago, he had a question for me. “How old are you?” he asked. When I told him I was 46, he answered: 

“Why, you’re in diapers.”

He had me laughing from the start. 

Mr. Overton is a man to be admired for more than just his longevity. He’s a veteran of World War II, and served honorably in Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima. Those were tough fights, and Iwo Jima alone was responsible for more than 26,000 American casualties, one of the bloodiest fights in American history.

He’s a man of independence, who enjoys getting up early, sipping his coffee and smoking his cigars on the porch of his home in East Austin, Texas. 

When I asked him the secret to living such a long life, he told me to move, to keep your blood pumping. "You've got to stir around a lot—your muscles get dry, your blood gets slow," he told me. "You need to get up and move around. If your muscles get sluggish, it slows your blood down."

So join me in wishing Richard Overton a very happy birthday. Fire up a cigar in his honor. Read his story and get up out of your chair and move around a little. After all, if it works for Mr. Overton, it might work for you as well.