Deacon Overkamp spent his life serving others
September 15, 2023
Deacon Robert “Jerry” J. Overkamp was a servant – for his country, Church and family, his son said.
In his “first career,” Deacon Overkamp served in the Air Force for 22 years, a Vietnam War veteran who retired as a lieutenant colonel.
In his “second career,” he served the Church, becoming a deacon who assisted at St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion and as a judge on the archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal, applying Church law to cases of marriage annulments, disciplinary matters and more.
Above all, Deacon Overkamp served his family, his son John Overkamp said.
“In our eyes, he was a model servant,” the son said. “To me, that’s his legacy: love of country, Church and family.”
Deacon Overkamp died Sept. 8, at age 79, of congestive heart failure and kidney failure, his son said.
A wake service was held Sept. 13 and a funeral Mass Sept. 14, both at St. Columbkille Church. Burial was at Omaha National Cemetery.
Deacon Overkamp was born in Saint Charles, Missouri, and explored a religious calling as a young man, entering a high school seminary and completing two years of college seminary for the Vincentian religious order.
“It was a very tough decision for him to leave the seminary,” said John Overkamp, a parishioner at St. Columbkille. “But he had a calling early in life that he wanted to serve, that he wanted to serve the Church, that he just wanted to serve.”
Deacon Overkamp went on to St. Louis University, graduating in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in history and completing training in the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
While on his first assignment at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri.
A few years later, he served a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam.
In 1965, while still a college student, Deacon Overkamp and his late wife, Chris, had married. Together they raised three children as they moved about with military assignments in Missouri, Colorado, Virginia, South Dakota, Guam and the Omaha area, where Deacon Overkamp retired from the Air Force in 1988.
He worked as a defense contractor for a year or two, but “I think there was an emptiness there,” his son said. “It wasn’t fulfilling everything he wanted.”
So his father pursued the diaconate and helped fill a need for canon lawyers in the archdiocese, studying at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., for three consecutive summers.
Meanwhile, he was also teaching and coaching sports, first at the former Cathedral High School in Omaha, then at St. Albert High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
He was ordained a deacon in 1991 and a few years later became a judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal, serving until his retirement in 2020.
‘FAIR AND KIND’
“He had a deep love for the Church and her legal practice,” said Father Scott Hastings, judicial vicar for the archdiocese. “He was fair and kind and gentlemanly. … He dealt with a lot of people going through really intensely painful situations,” always treating them with respect.
“Working with him was a real privilege,” Father Hastings said.
“He was just so helpful to everybody,” said Nancy O’Doherty, secretary and notary for the Metropolitan Tribunal, who worked closely with Deacon Overkamp for years. “He was smart and knowledgeable,” known for a booming voice and joyful spirit.
The Overkamps were longtime parishioners at St. Columbkille, where Chris had served as principal for the parish school and Deacon Overkamp assisted at Masses and brought Holy Communion to the sick and homebound.
In his spare time, Deacon Overkamp enjoyed helping with youth sports, coaching and refereeing. He and Chris supported their grandchildren in athletics and all their activities, John Overkamp said.
Deacon Overkamp is preceded in death by his wife; parents John and Frances Overkamp; and a brother, Vincentian Father John Overkamp.
Survivors include his children John (Jill), Mike and Lisa; grandchildren Jessica (Josh) Dunn, Jackson (Nikki), Jacob (Sarah), Joelle, Joey, James (Sarah), Josh; six great-grandchildren; brother-in-law, David Bolduc; nephews Tony and Christopher Bolduc.
Memorials were being directed to St. Columbkille School, where Chris Overkamp had been principal.