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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

Ice cream, vodka, cigars on my 2019 menu

What we can learn from the death of America’s oldest man.

Richard Overton, the oldest man in the United

Richard Overton, the oldest man in the United States and the oldest military veteran, visits the National Museum of African American History and Culture in April in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: The Washington Post / Jahi Chikwendiu

Looks like it’s already time to change my New Year’s resolutions — and my eating habits.

Richard Overton, America’s oldest World War II veteran and oldest man, who died last week at age 112, revealed his secrets to a long, happy life. So grab a pen:

1) Eat ice cream every day. “I only eat butter pecan,” Overton revealed. “If you want to buy any, you’d better buy butter pecan.”

2) Spike your coffee with whiskey. “When you put that whiskey in there, it makes your muscles get warm,” Overton told “The Today Show.”

3) Smoke 12 cigars a day.

Ice cream? Check. Whiskey? Guess vodka will do. Cigars? Better late than never. Old age, here I come! I have tried to eat more fruits and vegetables, and stay away from sweets and booze.

As of today, that all changes.

A survivor of Pearl Harbor, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, Overton served in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion in the Pacific theater. A sterling example of the “greatest generation,” he was happy to come home intact. “Some lost their body,” Overton told National Public Radio. “Some lost their soul.”

He returned to his hometown of Austin, Texas, where he worked in a furniture store, then as a courier at the state Capitol. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called him “an American icon and Texas legend.”

In 2013, Overton was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at the White House. No word on what was on the menu.

OK, I know it’s important to try to eat right. It’s more important to be a member of the lucky gene club. If most of your relatives lived into their 80s, 90s or beyond, you are lucky indeed. Meanwhile, the rest of us should stop and smell the roses — fast.

In addition to ice cream, whiskey and cigars, Overton credited his longevity to “stress-free living and yard work.” So, guess it’s time to get a yard, and get rid of half my friends.

Besides avoiding stress, Overton stayed active until well beyond a century old. He renewed his driver’s license at the tender age of 109.

And he did it all his way. RIP, Richard Overton.

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at


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