Richard Overton’s caretakers hope mural photo spurs donations for care

Local News

Austinite and America’s oldest living World War II veteran Richard Overton got the chance to visit his likeness on a mural at 12th and Chicon streets in Austin recently. 

Mr. Overton’s cousin, Volma, posted a shot of the visit to Facebook. 

In the photo, Mr. Overton can be seen wearing the same big smile as seen in his likeness. 

Martin Wilford, one of Overton’s caretakers, told KXAN he took the photo on the way from a haircut Thursday. “I said, ‘Pop, look at that picture. That’s you right there!’ And he looks, he turned his head, and he just smiled,” Wilford said. “It’s just something that I want to keep in my memory for the rest of my life.”

Wilford takes a lot of pictures of everyday life, but when he saw Overton’s smile in the snapshot, he knew it was something special. “When I saw it I said, ‘Man, this is an amazing picture.'”

He sent it to Volma Overton, Jr., Richard’s cousin, “and I looked it and I was like, ‘Whoa, man!'” Volma said. “I had to double take and look at it. That’s such a great picture, you know?”

It was the first time the 111-year-old had seen the painting of himself. “I think it was beautiful,” Overton told KXAN at his home early Friday afternoon. “Something that’s never been done before.”

It wasn’t until Volma posted the photo to Facebook that he realized how great it would turn out to be. Within a day it had been shared and liked thousands of times. By Tuesday morning, more than 11,000 people liked or shared it. 

One of those shares came from the artist, Chris Rogers. “It gave me chills,” he told KXAN about seeing the picture for the first time. His mural features African American and Latino cultural icons, a reflection of the history of east Austin. 

It was only fitting, he said, to include a living fixture of the community.

“I hope it stays there,” Richard Overton said. “I hope nobody don’t tear it down.”

Volma hopes the picture of Richard does more than make people — Richard included — smile. He included a link in his post to a GoFundMe page dedicated to his cousin’s ongoing home care. That page, started at the end of 2016, has raised a lot of money — more than $200,000. But it’s not enough.

“We are in the red on that,” Volma said. “The money is gone.”

Richard is 111 years old and still lives in his own home. At $480 per day, and nearly $15,000 per month, his round-the-clock care requires consistent fundraising. “And his birthday is coming up May 11,” Volma said. “He’s looking forward to his 112th birthday. Can you imagine that?”

Richard is the oldest man in the United States. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1942 at Fort Sam Houston, serving in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945, in Hawaii, Okinawa, Guam and Iwo Jima. Mr. Overton has lived through 19 presidents and tells us the secret to his longevity is he enjoys whiskey, cigars and milk.

Volma hopes the photo and Richard’s story reinvigorates donors.

“We definitely appreciate it, you know,” Wilford said. “And he appreciates it, too.”

Click here for a list of service organizations that provide resources for local seniors and their families.

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