America's oldest living WWII veteran turns 112, fueled by cigars, Dr Pepper and coffee.
The oldest man in America, who's also the oldest U.S. veteran, wakes on his couch at 4:25 a.m. and wonders if it's still raining. The blinds of his home are drawn shut. The trickles from an overnight storm fall onto the trees. "Turn on the lights," he says to his caregiver, who has sat by his side all night, waiting for Richard Overton to open his eyes. He's helped onto a scale, which says his frail figure is a perfect 125 pounds. His blood pressure is a solid 110 over 80. His body temperature is 97.4 degrees. In a few days, on Friday, he'll turn 112. "And I have no pains, no aches." On this morning, the supercentenarian sits in his favorite recliner. He reaches for his cigar box and unwraps two Tampa Sweet Perfectos with his long fingernails — one for now, one to tuck in his shirt pocket for later. The neighbors are still asleep. The sun has yet to rise. The birds aren't singing. And the rain, that darn rain, is still drizzling. He hopes today won't be like yesterday, when a constant storm prevented him from doing the thing he loves most. If the weather is nice, Overton sits on his front porch. His friends call it his "stage." He'll hum with the birds, snoop on his neighbors and wave at honking cars. Best of all, it's where he smokes most of his 12 daily cigars. For now, the dark sky is still a mystery. So Overton reclines in his seat, passing the time with three cigars until the first glimmer of blue sky sneaks between the blinds. "There she is," he says with a smile, smoking one more Tampa Sweet before putting in his teeth.
Just another day. Overton likes routines. He listens to the Isley Brothers and wears his favorite WWII veteran hat. He exercises, swinging his legs back and forth as he sits. And he still travels. Last summer, he flew to Memphis with his cousins for a family reunion. But there was a problem with his ticket. The computer misread his birth year of 1906, which they learned at the airport when the person at the check-in counter looked at their reservation and asked about the 12-year-old. Overton likes to mess with people. He has terms of endearment for those he loves, words that aren't appropriate for a family newspaper. He's also a ladies' man, always flirting with caregivers and nurses. He outlived his six sisters, three brothers, wife and ex-wife. He never had kids. He has a first cousin who lives down the street and a third cousin who stops by daily. In December 2016, a family member created a GoFundMe page to finance his 24/7 in-home care. The page has raised more than $234,000, but much of that money has already been spent. Once it's gone and the caregivers go, they fear he will, too. Overton doesn't worry about death. "I didn't know when I came here, and I don't know when I'm going," he said. "That's God's work." His main concern is the weather. And by 10 a.m., the forecast of sunny and mid-80s is perfect for the stage. His day has already included six cigars, a cinnamon roll and a glass of milk. Now comes the best part. He's helped to his feet and grips his walker. A lit cigar is folded between his fingers with three more tucked in his shirt pocket. He shuffles toward the front windows, leaving behind a smoky trail. When the door opens, a breeze, his first in two days, kisses his cheek. He exhales. 'It always feels good out here' He sits in the only lawn chair that's bathing in the sun. The birds
are singing, so he hums along. He smiles at the blue sky, and waves at his neighbor. This is where he'll be when he turns 112. Last year on his birthday, there was a party on his front lawn, where 200 people lined up to take a photo with him like kids waiting to meet Santa Claus. This year, there'll be two DJs, food, drinks and T-shirts that say, "Keep living, don't die." Overton knows the celebration is for them. For him, it's just another day — hopefully a sunny one, with three packs of Tampa Sweet Perfectos.