Farewell to a friend of Culver: Lance Overmyer
Former longtime Culver Fire Chief and beloved local legend Lance Overmyer passed away early Monday morning following several weeks' illness.
Overmyer joined Culver's volunteer fire department in 1965 under then-Fire Chief David Burns. After serving under Burns, Overmyer also served under Chief Donovan Overmyer before becoming Chief himself.
At a surprise gathering held to honor him on September 19, 2008, event emcee Mike Shesky, of Culver, noted, “For generations of Culver kids, Lance was ‘fireman Lance,’ ‘coach Lance,’ ‘Uncle Lance,’ and ‘Chief Lance,’ but he was always someone they could call on for help.”
Overmyer served as the fire department's Captain from 1980 to 1984, Secretary-treasurer from 1984 to 1987, and Chief from 1993 to 2006. A 1961 graduate of Culver High School as well as Manchester College, father of four children (and grandfather of four more), Overmyer also served locally as softball, baseball, and soccer coach, also volunteering with Culver’s Meals on Wheels, Jaycees, and Chamber of Commerce. In fact, his service to the community has been so vast through the years, it would be difficult to compose even a partial list.
At the same 2008 event, current Fire Chief and longtime department member Mike Grover fondly remembered his own father’s service as a fireman and Overmyer’s “picking on me (as a child) like he does my kids now.”
"He’s been involved in (fellow firemen’s) personal lives, been to our weddings, and been around our kids when they were little,” continued Grover, who shared several humorous tales from Overmyer’s past. “One night he came to the station with his shirt on backwards and another night with his wife’s pajama top on! He learned you don’t look down the end of a fire hose too long.”
At the event, Grover presented Overmyer his own helmet, which he said the department retired, all the members having signed it. Fireman Dave Cooper presented Overmyer a large plaque he’d made.
At the same event, Overmyer was toasted by Culver Academies Head of Schools John Buxton, presented a plaque from Culver's Chamber of Commerce honoring him, and a certificate of appreciation on behalf of Union Township, presented by Bobbie Ruhnow. She recalled working with him during her 12 year tenure as Culver Town Clerk.
Late former Chief Burns' widow, Judi Burns, on her website quotes Overmyer's recollections of joining the department when fireman (and town marshal) Don Mikesell pulled him over one day.
"You're on the fire department!" Overmyer recalled Mikesell saying. Overmyer recalled his reply: "Maybe I don't want to be on the fire department."
"You're going to be on the fire department whether you like it or not," Mikesell retorted, to which Overmyer simply replied, "Okay."
In a 2004 interview with Ida Chipman, Overmyer said he'd driven firefighter Jay Snyder to the station (after Snyder lost his keys) so many times, he decided to join the department himself.
Regardless of which version rings truer, Overmyer's memories of the incident are typical of his brand of humor, storytelling, and wit and wisdom, all of which he was well known for.
Overmyer had fought back from a life-threatening situation in the mid-1990s when a car accident in Lakeville nearly claimed his life. Several major surgeries -- with the support of his loving wife of nearly 50 years, Lynn, and his family and friends -- later, Overmyer was back to form, albiet with a raspier, quieter voice due to damage to his vocal chords. His trademark humor and charm remained intact, however.
Asked to talk during one operation in order to help surgeons properly position a repaired vocal chord, Overmyer told doctors he'd sing instead, and serenaded them with his rendition of "Volare," a song Lynn said he didn't even know, according to Chipman's article.
Lance Overmyer took over the Overmyer Soft Water business, today at the corner of Jefferson and Plymouth Streets in Culver -- as well as on Jefferson Street in Plymouth -- from his late father Earl after coming into the business in 1962 (Overmyer's mother, Helen, survives). His family has continued operation of the company to this day.
“Even today,” Mike Grover told the audience at the City Taven in 2008, “we still use the changes he made at the fire department. All of us on the department will always know Lance as ‘Chief.’”