Joseph P. Overton, 43, of Midland, passed away Monday, June 30, 2003, as a result of injuries sustained in a plane crash. Joe was born on Jan. 4, 1960 in South Haven, Mich., to Kathryn J. Overton and the late Lawrence G. Overton.
He graduated from Midland’s H.H. Dow High School in 1978; from Michigan Technological University in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering; and from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1993 with a Juris Doctor degree. He worked for the Dow Chemical Company for several years, holding positions such as electrical engineer, project manager and quality specialist.
Joe was a devoted husband, son, brother, and friend, always willing to help in any way he could. He was the finest Christian gentleman, a man you couldn’t help looking up to the moment he walked into a room. He raised the standards of thought and conduct just by being present.
He married the former Helen Rheem on March 29, 2003 and loved her deeply. Together, they shared a love of God that produced a brief but remarkable Christian union. They worshipped at the Midland Evangelical Free Church. Joe was known as a man who believed in personal discipleship; he formed small groups of fellow Christians and mentored them in spiritual growth.
The institutions and organizations in which he actively participated over the years include Campus Crusade for Christ, the Midland Morning Rotary Club, the State Policy Network, and the Michigan Appellate Defenders Commission. He founded the Michigan Legal Foundation and USAVotes.org.
Joe served as a volunteer for the Mackinac Center early in its history and joined the staff full-time in January 1992, eventually attaining the position of senior vice president and earning the boundless esteem of a grateful, admiring staff. Hardly a program, publication or procedure at the Center does not bear his imprint. He was a fountain of ideas, a genius at marketing and strategy, and a powerful motivator of people. Within 24 hours of his passing, tributes to him were pouring into the Mackinac Center from all over the world, but perhaps none would have been more meaningful to him than those from the staff he loved. Thoughtful, kind, humble, humorous, caring and inspiring are among the adjectives his colleagues use to describe him. Integrity, honor and honesty — he exuded these virtues and more.
Joe’s contributions to the Mackinac Center’s remarkable growth and influence, and to the larger public policy debate in the state of Michigan, are legion and long lasting. He came aboard the Center when there were just two other employees and was a prime mover in the organization’s growth, helping it to become the largest of some 40 research institutes of its kind outside Washington, D.C. He loved liberty and it showed in everything he said and did. His many accomplishments can be found on the Mackinac Center’s Web site, at www.mackinac.org, and they include many publications and concepts that advanced the cause of school choice and education reform.
Though this loss is beyond measure to those privileged to know him, it should be known that a big part of Joe Overton’s considerable legacy will be a better and stronger organization. That’s what he worked so long and hard and well to produce; it’s what he taught the rest of his colleagues to work toward; and it’s what the friends he leaves behind are more committed to than ever. Joe had many passions in his life, and among them were faith, family and freedom. He was a pillar of strength and inspiration in all those areas.
Joe is survived by his wife of three months and one day, Helen; his mother, Kathryn J. Overton of Midland; sister Laurie (Saunders Bennett) of Cary, N.C.; his brother Scott (Tammy) of Coleman, Mich.; and several aunts, uncles and cousins. He was predeceased by his father, Lawrence G. Overton.
Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked by the family to consider the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Midland.