Frederick Overkamp ’62

Frederick W. Overkamp, 83, passed away on Friday, February 24 at St. George Regional Hospital from complications after heart surgery. He was born on September 6, 1939, the third of four children to Joseph and Alice Overkamp in Paterson, New Jersey.  He married Catherine Baker at the Reformed Church in Lincoln Park, New Jersey on June 15, 1962.

Fred lived his life to the fullest; every turn was an opportunity for new friendships, experiences, and adventures. At nineteen, he met the love of his life, Catherine, at an ice-skating rink. He surprised her when he enrolled in Hope College where she was set to attend in the fall. Four years later, with his B.A. in Physics, he married Cathy, and took a job teaching at Fennville High School in Michigan. A year later, the young couple moved to Connecticut where he taught Physics at Coventry High School and East Lyme High School. While teaching, he completed a master’s degree in education.

In 1969 they purchased a cottage on Damariscotta Lake in Maine, where Joanna and Jill would spend many beloved summers with their family and friends. They purchased a cape in Warren, Maine where they opened their first store, Sleigh Bells Christmas Shop and Gallery, featuring his nautical oil paintings. After fourteen years of teaching, the family moved to Maine, and their original store eventually branched out under the new name of Christmas Magic, to several locations in Southern Maine including Boothbay Harbor, Wiscasset, Auburn, and Freeport.

Fred made the most of his life in Maine, playing church softball, coaching his daughter Jill’s basketball team, playing basketball at the YMCA, and playing tennis on clay courts. He took up downhill skiing with his family, even managing the Camden Snow Bowl for a season. He and his daughters would eventually ski the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico together. Fred participated in two Archeological digs, one of which was on Indiantown Island in the Boothbay Region of Maine. From their findings, he made a book of drawings of arrowheads, bone tools and a painted pottery reconstruction from chards which is now housed at the Maine State Museum. In addition, he helped design and build the model railroad display at the Boothbay Railway Village, and he painted the background diorama. He loved trains so much that he brought his talents home to his own back yard, where he built an outdoor garden railroad.

Skilled and creative, Fred built one house and remodeled another in Maine. He designed and built display cases for all their stores. He could create anything he set his mind to, whether at home, the business or in his volunteer work. As a true artist, he visualized the result first; as a craftsman, he created the final product with precision.

Fred and Cathy’s daughter, Joanna, attended college in Colorado and New Mexico, and the family grew to love the Southwest so much that Fred and Cathy purchased an adobe style home in Taos, New Mexico, where Joanna lived for several years. During the Colorado Springs and New Mexico years, Fred and Cathy spent many vacations exploring the Southwest with Joanna. After selling the business, he and Cathy escaped the Maine winters by retiring to Hurricane, Utah where he found even more opportunities for growth. They joined the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, in St. George, Utah. Soon after moving to the area, he began volunteering at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum also in St. George. Additionally, Fred was a substitute teacher from 2012 – 2019, in Hurricane and area schools where he enjoyed teaching and interacting with the students.

Their daughter, Jill, went to college and settled in the Midwest, marrying Scott, “the son he’d never had.” “Going to get a newspaper” with him usually meant they would be gone for an hour or two on the golf course or tennis court. Later, came the grandchildren. Throughout his years in Maine and Utah, he devoted much attention to his grandchildren, Elliott and Olivia, including them in many educational adventures in nature. As small children they took canoe rides, went swimming, took lots of hikes and climbed oceanside rocks. In the Southwest as teenagers, he took them on many memorable hikes in Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, and many more places. His last summer he took up biking with Joanna to prepare for what turned out to be an epic bike ride down Red Rock Canyon Bike Trail with Olivia and Joanna. Jill, as trip photographer, documented his amazing achievement. Fred was always learning and always willing to teach and share his wealth of knowledge. He explored many beautiful places with his family, taking time to teach them about the geology or history of the area. His grandchildren and the time he spent expanding their horizons meant the world to him.

His “adopted son,” and friend John O’Donnell, introduced him to NASCAR, bringing him to the races, as well as concerts, and car shows in Las Vegas. He enjoyed taking Jeep adventures through the desert and mountains with John (and Joanna), and he found an occasional thrill in winning at Dinosaur slot machines.

He prided himself in the window boxes he planted outside of his home and the stores each spring. In his younger years, he fed his family from his huge garden. He also loved his animals, and his children’s animals. His gentleness and kindness to all life was always evident.

Last year, Fred took a final trip back to New England. After spending some time with family in Connecticut, he drove to Maine and visited Southport Methodist Church, one of several of his home churches over his lifetime in which he’d so enjoyed fellowship and singing bass in the choir. His life exhibited love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness.

He is survived by his wife: Catherine Overkamp ’62; children: Joanna Overkamp, of Hurricane, Utah; Jill Dawson (Scott Dawson), of Mason, Ohio; “adopted” son, John O’Donnell, of Hurricane, Utah; grandchild: Olivia Dawson, of Woodbury, Minnesota; sister: Janet (George) Braen; Nephew: Joe (Nancy) Braen; great niece: Mary Braen; and great nephew: Daniel Braen, all of of Hamden, Connecticut. He was predeceased by his grandson: Elliott T. Dawson; his sisters, Dr. Corine Overkamp and Lois Overkamp; and his niece, Linda C. Braen.

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