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Published: Sunday, 1/5/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

James B. Chamberlin; 1925-2013: Founder of area ski shop loved sailing, winter sports

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

James B. Chamberlin, co-founder of a leading area ski shop whose eager interest in sailing and winter sports fueled his career, died Dec. 27 in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 88.

He learned he had liver cancer about two weeks ago, his daughter Molly said.

Mr. Chamberlin, with Jim Wenberg, opened a ski shop in 1976 called the Mountain Man at the Parkway Plaza in Maumee. He knew the sport well. He previously was a manager at the Viking Shop, a ski store, and a traveling salesman for a ski equipment wholesaler. He and his wife skied on their 1951 honeymoon in northern Lower Michigan.

“He was probably the grandfather of skiing in the Toledo area,” said Mr. Wenberg, owner and president of what is now Mountain Man Sports on Reynolds Road in Toledo.

During ski season, Mr. Chamblin reported Michigan slope conditions on the radio in Toledo.

Asked his occupation recently, Mr. Chamberlin said, “‘I sell fun,’” his daughter said.

Mr. Chamberlin first knew Mr. Wenberg in the early 1970s as a would-be customer of the Viking Shop.

“He was the manager. He helped me get started in skiing and built enthusiasm in me and helped me select the equipment,” Mr. Wenberg said. Along the way, Mr. Wenberg recalled “being shown how fantastic of a lifestyle the skiing business is, and he kind of showed all the positives to it, that made it look like a good way to go.”

Mr. Chamberlin also guided Mr. Wenberg to other sports, including sailing. Mr. Wenberg later raced sailboats.

“He was the kind of guy who enjoyed the outdoors and was an easygoing, fun-loving guy, and definitely a mentor,” Mr. Wenberg said.

In 1982, Mr. Chamberlin and Mr. Wenberg took manager posts with Walt Churchill Adventure Shops after investors in Mountain Man bought them out. Mr. Wenberg in turn bought out those investors two years later and became owner. Mr. Chamberlin retired from the ski business. For several years afterward, he sold utility barns for a Maumee firm.

Mr. Chamberlin grew up on Princeton Drive in South Toledo and sailed the Maumee River from an early age. Early in his career, he was offered a job selling boats and services at Payne Marine on Monroe Street. He later was a salesman at Brenner Marine in East Toledo and was a former president of the Toledo Marine Dealers Association.

“He loved talking to people,” his daughter said. “Every customer was of extreme importance to him. I worked for him at the Mountain Man, and I never heard him squabble with a customer. He was the epitome of the customer is right.”

For more than a decade in retirement, he volunteered daily at the Claver House soup kitchen in central Toledo.

He was born Sept. 3, 1925, to Ella and J. Dale Chamberlin. He attended Harvard School and was a graduate of Libbey High School. He also attended the University of Toledo.

He enlisted in the Coast Guard during World War II and was a radio operator aboard a vessel near the Philippines.

He retained his interest in the water and taught his children and many relatives to water ski.

He’d been a leading supporter in the 1960s for the city to build a boat launch and an adjacent dock at Walbridge Park. He could be found at the ramp, helping out boaters, most days in recent years. He also was an advocate for the city to improve conditions at the ramp.

“Dad was persistent, not in an unkind way, but in his love and passion for the city of Toledo,” his daughter said.

Surviving are his wife, Margaret “Marg” Chamberlin, whom he married Jan. 20, 1951; sons, Chris, Tom, and Mike Chamberlin; daughters, Beth Huffman and Molly Henry; nine grandchildren, and two great-grandsons.

The family will greet friends from noon-4 p.m. Saturday in Walbridge Park Shelter House, with a sharing of memories at 1 p.m. Arrangements are by the Coyle Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the American Cancer Society or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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