(Note: On January 28, 2004, I was privileged along with my assistant Kendra Shrode and Joe Overton’s widow Helen to attend a special dinner here in Midland, Michigan. It was sponsored by the Morning Rotary Club of Midland and the event was its annual International Dinner. During this dinner the Rotary Club honored the memories of two Rotarians, Mr. Gordon Carson and Mr. Joseph Overton. The club paid tribute to both Rotarians for the tremendous contributions both men made to club while they were members. Sadly, the club suffered the loss of both men during the summer of 2003, within one month of each other. Below are the remarks of Rotarian Betsy Haigh in honor of Joe—Lawrence W. Reed.)


Good evening Madame President, Mr. District Governor, Fellow Rotarians and families and most especially our honored guests this evening.

Rotary is a tremendous group of individuals throughout this world dedicated to fulfilling Rotary motto of Service Above Self. This evening we will hear about a loving example of this service from Mr. Groner. Also this evening, we will honor two Rotarians from our own club whom we have lost in this last year who fulfilled this motto through their very lives.

Each year at our district conference deceased Rotarians are honored in a yellow rose ceremony where each club president is given a yellow rose for each deceased Rotarian of their club to place in an arrangement. This evening we will honor Joe Overton and Gordon Carson in our own yellow rose ceremony. President JoAnn Willett will place a yellow rose in this floral arrangement for each man. As each gentleman’s rose is placed we will pay tribute to him in the words of his fellow Rotarians.

Joe Overton was a long standing member of the Rotary Club of Midland, Morning in which he held two key leadership positions. With the Club Service Committee Joe was the Program Chairman wherein Joe scheduled the weekly programs and guest speakers for the Club. Additionally, Joe was the Youth Exchange Officer for the Club and organized the club’s endeavors in hosting high school youth exchange students in Midland from other parts of the world as well as coordinating Midland students to be exchange students throughout the world.

“Joe made members glad to come to meetings because of the programs he organized and as a former president of this club I greatly appreciate Joe’s contribution for many years as being the Program Chair. We cannot honor Joe without also mentioning his involvement in the Youth Exchange Program and the many years he was our club’s liaison with the students who spent a year in Midland from many places around the world. Joe had a fervent desire to positively impact the lives of children and youth.”

“Joe was a very valuable Rotarian who is sorely missed. He was so dedicated and reliable in all that he did for the club. His contribution to the Youth Exchange Program touched the lives of many young people both locally and globally. He was a leader and mentor to many and all this is part of his legacy.”

“Joe Overton was also very special. As far as Rotary is concerned it was especially great that Joe would take the Program chairmanship year after year and he did a terrific job! As the Club Service Chairman this was really tremendous and greatly appreciated.”

Joe and I spent many hours together on project at Dow Chemical, during his career as an electrical engineer. I so appreciated his fresh view of project implementation and his belief that people always wanted to give their best, even when competition suggested otherwise. I respect Joe for his dedicated discipline of faith and his response to his needy fellow man.”

“I remember Joe as a polite, pleasant and positive person. Whenever I interacted with him, he was always interested in and encouraging about my activities. He was especially enthusiastic about my role as Principal at Woodcrest. Whenever we achieved an honor, or received high test scores, he always congratulated me. If we ever received any bad press, he was kind enough to ignore it! Joe was an honest, sincere gentleman and I miss him.”

“Joe Overton was an exceptionally kind-hearted soul who always had a pleasant word to say about everyone and everything. He was exceptionally smart and very analytical. He could dissect the nuts and bolts of what someone was talking about quickly. I admired Joe. He was always interested in what was going on in your life and had the knack to get you talking while he smiled and listened intently. He was an amazing guy who had varied interests from chess, motorcycling, reading, guitars, music and skiing. I miss talking to him about his trips for The Mackinac Center and his views on education.”

“Joe loved his Rotary club and lined up great speakers to make it fun for the members. He was also first to volunteer for club projects. He was a leader in every sense of the word and held high ethics and regard for his fellow man. In his dealing with others he followed the Rotary 4 Way Test (Is it the Truth?; Is it Fair to all Concerned?; Will it Build Good Will?; Will it be Beneficial to all Concerned?). To sum it up Joe was one “Cool Dude.”

“I must admit that when I first joined the Rotary Club of Midland, Morning I was a bit intimidated by Joe Overton. For a number of years I had read his work and the work of The Mackinac Center and was a bit in awe. However, after working with Joe in the Youth Exchange Program I was no longer intimidated. Rather, I was honored and it was a privilege to work with Joe and to see his sincere desire to see young people have their worlds opened to new opportunities. Joe certainly positively impacted our club and our community, but he significantly impacted the lives of individuals. On more than one occasion Joe offered professional and personal advice to me. Some of which I still follow to this day. He always took the time to listen and consider his response prior to offering advice.”

We miss these outstanding men a great deal.

As we remember Joe and Gordon as individuals we should also note the characteristics both men held in common:

First, the mutual respect and admiration each shared for the other. Both men were highly intelligent with a scientific, logical method of thought and reasoning and had scientific backgrounds. As true Rotarians, both men served their communities and the world through their vocations; Gordon as an educator at the collegiate level and Joe as he promoted freedom through public policy in Michigan, the United States and throughout the world. Joe and Gordon were both men of high integrity, honor and decency. Their sense of humor was great, although Joe’s was a bit quirkier than Gordon’s they both could bring laughter and a smile to others. Above all, both men shared the same faith in God and their Savior Jesus Christ and living their lives in service to Him.

The Morning Rotary Club has established a youth exchange scholarship in Joe’s memory that will be granted each year to a local high school student who will spend an academic year in another country. Each year we will seek a young person with integrity whose vision of personal freedom and responsibility will be expanded by the youth exchange experience to receive the Joseph P. Overton Youth Exchange Scholarship thus carrying on Joe’s legacy for many years to come.

As we conclude this portion of our evening please join me in prayer,

Lord in heaven, we thank you for the lives of Gordon Carson and Joe Overton. As family, friends and Rotarians we are grateful for the time we knew them although we are saddened that that time was as short as it was. May you be glorified by the lives of those present this evening as you were by the lives of these men. For in the sweet name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

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