Ira Eugene Overfelt passed away at his home in Salt Lake City, UT on July 12, 2021 after a long, rich and accomplished life. He lived his life to the fullest and was true to himself to the end, determined to press on regardless of the limitations imposed as his eyesight and body declined with age. He rarely missed an opportunity to participate in a social activity or express his opinion. It came as no surprise to learn that he went to the gym to work out the day before he died. Much to the dismay of his family and caregivers, he was often seen by neighbors trimming his shrubs or planting flowers well after his ninety-ninth birthday. He was respected and loved by his family and friends. His energy, resilience and generosity astounded us.
Gene was born to Gertrude Howell Overfelt and Ira Overfelt in Gunnison, Utah on March 26, 1922. He grew up in rural Sanpete County where he learned the importance of hard work, accepting responsibility and honoring commitments, things that served him well throughout his life. As a young man, he owned and operated a successful family turkey farm, an enterprise that provided a foundation for his competence as a businessman and funded his college education. He graduated from Gunnison Valley High School where he was active in athletics, music and recognized as valedictorian in 1939.
Gene was a proud and loyal graduate of the University of Utah. While attending the U, he met his future wife and true love, Jean Meredith of Boise, Idaho at a fraternity exchange party. Gene served as University of Utah Student Body President and President of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He fondly recalled celebrating the Ute Basketball Team’s championship in the 1944 NCAA tournament. After earning his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, he remained a lifelong U supporter and UTES athletics season ticket holder. Gene and Jean were honored as football “super fans” during the halftime ceremony of a UTE game. Gene was a man of tradition and always a “Utah Man” at heart.
Jean and Gene were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, CA on May 19, 1945. They were a very social couple, always planning the next family event, finding a way to serve their community or looking forward to another gathering with friends. They created a beautiful life for their three children and were adored by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will always remember their Grandpo and Grandmo. Gene and Jean knew how to have a good time, whether they were on the golf course, tennis court or dance floor. They traveled the world visiting every continent and too many countries to list. Above all, they enjoyed creating family memories at the Overfelt cabin at Fish Lake and spending winters at their condo in Coronado, CA. Thanks to their generosity, our family has enjoyed countless sunrises and sunsets at both of these special places that were so dear to them. They were fiercely dedicated to each other for over seventy years. Gene missed his beloved Jean tremendously after she passed away in 2017. He would talk with her every night before going to bed to tell her about his day. He dreamt of the time they would be together again.
At the beginning of his career, Gene worked for the US Naval Office of Scientific Development, California Institute of Technology where he worked on a project to develop a missile without fins that was guided by spin. He also worked for Wheeler Machinery in Caterpillar sales for the western states. He gave up a promising future in engineering when his father developed a serious illness in 1946 and could no longer manage the Gunnison Valley Bank. Gene decided to learn the banking business and graduated from the prestigious Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington in 1948. He went on to have a rewarding and distinguished forty-five-year career in banking, serving as President of Gunnison Valley Bank, President of the Utah Bankers Association and Senior Vice-President of Commercial Security Bank and Key Bank in Salt Lake City.
Gene was fully committed to giving back to society. Never one to turn down an opportunity to volunteer and lead, he served as President of the Board of Wasatch Academy, Board member of College of Southern Utah (now SUU), President of the Board of Gunnison Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce, President of the Utah Jaycees, Board member of the American Heart Association, President of the Utah Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation and Vice President of the National Arthritis Foundation. He was also a proud member of the Dirty Shirts.
Gene was known to have a sweet tooth, enjoyed his cashew nuts and was kind and loving with his dogs. He was a lifelong pheasant hunter and hosted an annual gathering of family and friends in Gunnison Valley for over fifty years where the “gang” would stomp the fields for roosters during the day and tell stories in the evening. An avid golfer, Gene scored his age in his eighties and enjoyed playing courses with Jean and their friends, especially on their home course at Hidden Valley Country Club. Boating and fishing were a big part of Gene’s life. He water skied into his seventies and was particularly fond of trolling from his boat at Fish Lake with pop gear and a nightcrawler. Many of his summer evenings were spent on the east shore of Fish Lake with a fly rod. He loved keeping a few trout, even the small ones so they could be cooked for dinner at the cabin. The highlight of many years was the annual “work party” at Fish Lake with his son and grandsons. When the work was completed, the day evolved into a game of horseshoes, tall tales and drinking a few beers. Gene enjoyed giving speeches, some of which left us laughing and crying. He taught us many things about striving to live a better life. He will be missed beyond words.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife, Jean, his sisters, Lois O. Alkire and Helen O. Drayton and numerous close friends. We hope they are together enjoying a “silver bullet” and raising a glass to us now. Gene is survived by his daughters, Marsha Harmon (Steve), Meredith Orton (Larry), son, Mark Overfelt (Vicki), brother, Frank Overfelt, grandchildren, Paul Harmon (Candice), Adam Harmon (Kimberly), Andrew Harmon (Cortney), Kelley Beaudry (Zach), Larry Orton, Jr., Sophia Overfelt and great-grandchildren, Paige Harmon, Mia Harmon, Ella Harmon, Jack Harmon, William Harmon, Ben Beaudry, Katy Beaudry, Grayson Harmon and Marley Harmon.
We express our deepest appreciation to Gene’s compassionate caregivers at Senior Helpers and his friends near and far who supported him to the end.
A celebration of Gene’s life for family and close friends will be held in the near future. In lieu of flowers, we encourage you to hug your loved ones and consider a donation to the Utah Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.