Former trooper dies of heart attack

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldMay 1, 2013 

Pete Overdahl

The passing of former state trooper Pete S. Overdahl has left a big hole in the Tri-City community.

Overdahl, 70, died April 30 of a heart attack at his home in Richland while going through scholarship applications for Club 40, an alumni group for Columbia/Richland High School grads.

Friends said he would do anything for anyone at any time and was "a heck of a family man," though he never had children of his own.

He was born May 8, 1942, in Ashland, Wis. He moved to the Tri-Cities two years later when his father, Clarence, was named chief of police for North Richland.

Overdahl graduated in 1960 from Columbia High School, then served for three years as an air policeman in the U.S. Air Force in Germany. He applied for the Washington State Patrol after returning to the Tri-Cities and worked nine months as a Kennewick dispatcher before entering the academy.

"He always wanted to be in law enforcement," said longtime friend Mark Jansen of Pasco, who also is a retired state trooper.

Overdahl spent his first two years as a trooper in Walla Walla. He met his wife, Maggie, in 1967 in the laundry room of the apartments where they lived in College Place.

"My first words were, 'You sure work funny hours.' " Maggie Overdahl said. "His work car at the time was very loud and he was called out a lot in the middle of the night. When he started it up, everyone could hear it."

They were married June 15, 1968, and soon moved to the Tri-Cities, where he served another 23 years with the State Patrol.

Overdahl was appointed as a safety educator for the State Patrol in 1988, Jansen said. He visited schools from the Tri-Cities to Clarkston, teaching kids about strangers, bike and pedestrian safety, and seat belts until retiring in 1991.

"Pete had a great rapport with children," Jansen said. "For him, that was the pinnacle of his career."

Both Overdahls loved children. When Maggie heard about the American Field Service program for exchange students in 1983, they signed up. For the next four years they "parented" one full-time student per year and several who visited for weeks or months.

"Even though he and Maggie never had children of their own, he was the best dad ever to those foreign students," Sara Jansen said.

Overdahl's hobbies included photography and gluing used wine corks into bird houses, which he generously gave away. Maggie Overdahl said one uncompleted house is sitting on his work bench now.

An avid photographer, Overdahl took his camera to every social event, snapping pictures of everyone and everything. A few days later he'd drop off a stack of photos at the home of the host and hostess.

"Usually there were enough for everyone who attended to have one," Sara Jansen said. "That's what I remember about Pete -- he was the kindest, most caring man you'd ever know."

Maggie Overdahl described her late husband as a people person who stayed very socially active. He kept in touch with fellow police officers and would meet them every Wednesday morning for coffee. He also kept in touch with fellow classmates and often met them for lunch.

Her husband also was the world's most prolific card sender. During his retirement party in 1991, the emcee asked the crowd of 300-350 people to raise their hands if they'd received a card from him. Mark Jansen said all but about five hands went up.

"That was his joy, sending cards for all occasions," Maggie Overdahl said.

Overdahl also never gave up law enforcement, even in retirement. He served papers for law firms and had a private investigator's license.

"He was out at night, serving papers, just a few days ago," Mark Jansen said. "I told him it was crazy to do that at his age and he just laughed."

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. May 11 at Faith Assembly, 1800 N. Road 72, Pasco. Graveside services will be at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery, with a reception to follow at Einan's Event Center, 915 bypass highway, Richland.

Einan's Funeral Home in Richland is in charge of arrangements.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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