BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
A stroke meant the end of Keith Overby’s career as an Oakland County Sheriff’s deputy, but the beginning of volunteer opportunities throughout the community.
“That stroke retired me, but I didn’t give up,” said Overby of Springfield Township, 64, who had a stroke while on duty at the Independence Township Substation near Thanksgiving in 2014.
The University of Michigan honored him for one of his volunteer assignments, with their Buddy-to-Buddy Veterans Program. Overby is their November 2016 Volunteer of the Month for his work with vets.
“I’m humbled and honored after a long medical recovery,” said Overby.
He has been a volunteer with the program for more than a year, assisting service members and veterans with finances, benefits, legal issues, education, and health, family, and emotional concerns.
“We help with eligibility and networking with other organizations,” he said. “I don’t make approvals, I just give directions.”
He is also an ordained chaplain with the International Fellowship of Chaplains, since 2015; volunteer chaplain with Absolute Home Health and Hospice Care in Grand Blanc, instructing seniors on senior safety; and hospital chaplain at Hurley Medical Hospital in Flint.
“It’s a great opportunity as hospital chaplain to network with veterans,” he said. “It can be soothing to have another veteran there, reaching out and listening.”
He serves on the Great Lakes National Cemetery Advisory Board, helping to plan Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies at the national cemetery; Ethics Committee at Hurley; and Region Six Veterans Community Action Team, run by the state of Michigan.
“Satisfaction comes from helping people – that’s what I want to do,” he said. “The passion to help comes from all the training in the Marine Corps and how my parents raised me, to go out, help people, and make a difference.”
The volunteering helps him with his recovery, with the encouragement of his wife, Katy.
“My wife is the driving force for me. She doesn’t want me to stay home and watch TV,” he said. “I’m getting better.”
Keith found out about Buddy-to-Buddy when he and his wife happened to walk through a veterans event in Grand Rapids where Cliff Tholen, a volunteer and former program regional coordinator, talked with and encouraged him to become a volunteer.
He remembered what it was like when he left the military and there were few programs or services focused on assisting veterans and thought Buddy-to-Buddy would be an excellent way to help fellow vets.
Keith served in the Marines from 1972-74 as a machine gunner and gunsmith. After his enlistment, he began his college studies and then embarked on a 39-year career as an Oakland County deputy sheriff.
He earned Associate’s degrees in Business and Criminal Investigation from Oakland Community College and completed many specialized law enforcement and criminal investigation training and certificate programs during his career, earning numerous commendations and awards throughout the years.
Keith said, in addition to being able to help others as a volunteer veteran, he enjoys the camaraderie among fellow volunteer vets from every service branch that is shared on weekly support calls.
He and his wife have a daughter, three sons, and eight grandchildren.
“My wife is my rock and so are my kids,” Keith said.
In the new year, he plans to cut back on some volunteering, to avoid burning out on it. “What I’m trying to do now, is not thin myself out. It’s been a challenging recovery,” he said.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO