John H. Overtoom died on Jan. 14 in his winter home in Madison, N.J.
Mr. Overtoom was born on June 8, 1926, to Leo J. and Cyrilla H. Overtoom in Harvey, Ill. He was raised in Florham Park, N.J. where he attended grammar school in the historic Little Red Schoolhouse and graduated from Madison High School. John was drafted into the Army to serve in World War II immediately after his high school graduation. Assigned to be a machine gunner in the 9th division of the Army Infantry, he was told he had a three-minute life expectancy on the battlefield. During his two-year tour of duty Mr. Overtoom was stationed in Germany and France, and fought at the famous battle for the bridge at Remagen, Germany. John was honorably discharged in 1945 having attained the rank of sergeant. He was so happy to come through the war alive that he always felt each day was a gift.
After returning from the war he enrolled at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on the GI Bill where he received a bachelor of science degree in architecture. John opened his own architecture firm in 1962 in Florham Park where he lived and worked for most of his life. Two of the buildings he enjoyed designing during his long career were the Florham Park Municipal Building and Florham Park Library.
John met his wife, Doris, at the Springfield fair. He was selling tractors with his father and she was a model with her twin sister for the Westinghouse twin washer/dryer set. As fate would have it, she lived in nearby Hillside, N.J. They were married on Oct. 30, 1954 and were together for 56 years.
In his spare time he loved to work on his two English sports cars, a Triumph Stag and a Sunbeam Alpine. His other favorites were a Fiat and the most recent, a Mazda RX8. He also enjoyed building model airplanes, meeting new people, and travel. He traveled to the Caribbean, Egypt, Russia, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia; one of his favorite places to visit was Italy.
He spent the last 25 years summering from May through October on Martha’s Vineyard. He loved to come each spring and enjoyed time with his grandchildren, Olivia and Michelle. They loved to make pancakes together every Sunday and each time would rate how well they turned out. While making the pancakes, John would give the girls a history lesson. He always used a secret recipe that he invented himself.
He is survived by his wife, Doris, of Madison, N.J. and West Tisbury; his children, Douglas L. Overtoom and wife, Carol, of Haddonfield, N.J.; Karen M. Overtoom and husband, Louis, of West Tisbury,; J. Andrew Overtoom and wife, Tricia, of Silver Lake and Leo J. Overtoom and wife, Gwen, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; his nieces and nephew, whom John and Doris raised: Stefanie Cohen and husband, David, of Buffalo N.Y.; Phillip Cohen and wife, Sue, of South Orange, N.J.; and Laura Riley and husband, David of Hilton Head, S.C.; his grandchildren, Olivia and Nikolaus and Ian Overtoom, Sam Brown, Kermit and Calliope Cohen, Casey and David Riley; his brother and sisters, Jimmy Overtoom of Delaware, Irene Smith and Suzanne O’Donnell, both of Madison, N.J., and their children and grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held this summer on the Vineyard.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, or by planting a tree.