John William "Bill" Overbey II died last week, 10 months after surviving a lung transplant and two months after walking his daughter down the aisle. He was 57.
Overbey, a retired systems analyst from Sterling, was one of six people who received lung transplants at Inova Fairfax Hospital during a two-week span late last summer. Given the difficulty of finding suitable lung donors, the number was unusually high for a single hospital, doctors said.
"The transplant didn't give him a longer life, but it gave him a chance to live without being tethered to an oxygen tank," said Nancy Overbey, his wife of 31 years.
Soon after his surgery in August, Bill Overbey become a kind of mentor for Don Wise, a Fredericksburg pipe fitter who was also a lung patient at the hospital. They met after Wise's wife, Cheryl, saw a newspaper article about Overbey in September. She called Nancy Overbey, and the men started to exchange e-mail.
"He answered all my questions about my transplant so that when I went in, I had no fear," Wise said. "I knew what was going to happen to me because of Bill."
The two met face to face just a few days after Wise's transplant in February.
"We always said we were going to go out and get coffee, but either he would be sick or I would be, so we never did," said Wise, who said he is home and doing fairly well. "He always told me that if we lived just one more day to breathe, it was worth it. He meant so much to me. I'll never forget him."
In April, Bill Overbey gave his daughter away at her wedding at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon. "I zipped right down" the aisle, he said at the reception. "I wouldn't have been able to make it before [the transplant]. It feels great."
Overbey, who had been a heavy smoker for most of his life before receiving the transplant, returned to the hospital about five weeks ago to undergo treatment for a virus in his new lung, which his body was rejecting.
His daughter, Elizabeth Duncan, and her husband, Michael, had promised him they would quit smoking after the wedding--and when they saw him attached to a respirator, Nancy Overbey said, they decided to quit then and there.
"I told my son-in-law I didn't want to stand by his beside and see him go through the same thing," she said.
CAPTION: Bill Overbey at his daughter's wedding.