AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been more than three years since Austin icon and veteran Richard Overton’s death in December 2018. Now, a memorial monument adorns his final resting place — “the final chapter,” longtime friend Allen Bergeron said, in Overton’s long and storied history in Central Texas.
Born in Bastrop County on May 11, 1906, Overton became a cultural icon within the city of Austin. He made history when, prior to his death, he became the oldest living World War II veteran in the United States.
On Friday, Gilbert Beall and Donna Brown of Beall Memorial Art installed the monument at Texas State Cemetery in east Austin. A sea of American flags surround the monument, with a face-side up penny and “army values” coin placed on top.
In February, Beall told KXAN pandemic and funding-related issues delayed installation of the project. Beall added in an email Monday that he’s installed more than 200 monuments at Texas State Cemetery, saying, “I consider them all part of my body of work.”
Incorporated into the design are details that, Bergeron said, are quintessentially Overton: The World War II veteran hat. His charismatic smile. A cigar in hand. All elements that allude to the “Overton way of thinking.”
“He talked about God all the time. He was very peaceful with himself. He would, again, never judge anyone,” Bergeron said. “He would welcome everyone. And that’s rare nowadays, you know?”
One of Bergeron’s favorite memories of Overton was their trip to the White House on Veterans Day, featuring a tour of Arlington National Cemetery. It was on that trip that Overton showed his propensity for humor and kindness, charming the First Lady and political dignitaries with his jokes and wit.
Overton’s gifts, Bergeron said, included his ability to recognize people from all walks of life as his equal, paired with his gentle curiosity for the world.
When it came to selecting his final resting place, Overton told Bergeron he always wanted to be buried in Texas State Cemetery — mere blocks from his home, tucked away into east Austin and just down the road from Huston-Tillotson.
For those newer to Austin or who never had the opportunity to meet him, Bergeron said he hopes people will take the time to read up on Overton’s story or visit his cemetery memorial to get a glimpse into the life of “the grandfather of Austin.”
“As we sat on his porch and smoked cigars and sipped whiskey, he welcomed everyone into his house, into his world, and just loved everyone,” he said. “And so for me, it’s about the final chapter, even the final paragraph for me. He was just a dear friend.”
As for now? Bergeron said he’s looking forward to packing up a folding chair and heading to the eastside soon, taking a trip to visit an old friend.