Aug. 16, 1920-May 5, 2012
Palo Alto, California
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William Ellsworth Chamberlain passed away Saturday, May 5 in Palo Alto, Calif., at the age of 91. Known as "Bill," he was born Aug. 16, 1920, in Providence, R.I., to William Chamberlain, Sr. and Kathryne Walsh. Bill had resided with his family in Palo Alto for the last 40 years.
After losing his mother at the age of three, Bill and his older sister Bernadette were raised by their maternal aunt, Julia Walsh, and their paternal grandparents, Catherine and Frank Chamberlain, who later moved them to Hartford, Conn. Bill graduated from Bulkeley High School in Hartford in 1938 and worked at Pratt & Whitney before enlisting in the Army in 1943.
During World War II, he trained and served as a B-29 navigator in the U.S. Army Air Corps stationed at Harvard Air Force Base in Nebraska. After the war ended, he attended Brown University on the GI Bill, graduating in 1949 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.
Bill went to work for the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in its nuclear submarine program, where he worked with USN Admiral Hyman Rickover in the development and construction of the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. As part of the submarine program at EBD, Bill also did post-graduate work at Yale and MIT. His experience with nuclear power took him from General Dynamics to the Atomics Division of AMF Corporation in New York City. At the time AMF Atomics was involved in the U.S. Government's "Atoms for Peace" program that supplied nuclear equipment and information to schools, hospitals and research institutions within the U.S. and throughout the world.
It was in 1957 that he met Bernadette Mitchel in New York City, and they were married the following spring. Bernadette's family was from San Francisco and Teaneck, N.J. Their early years were spent in New York City, where their children Claire and John were born.
In 1963 Bill moved from AMF to the Utah Construction & Mining Company in San Francisco, where as Vice President he oversaw several projects including the construction of the BART trans-bay tube and the San Luis Rey Reservoir. Bill and Bernadette lived in San Francisco and welcomed a third child, Paul, later that year. It was in 1968 when Bill chose to leave the corporate world and begin his own venture in real estate development.
He founded Transcentury Properties and developed sites in Northern California, the most noteworthy being the construction of Bodega Harbour, a community located along the Pacific Coast just south of Bodega Bay. In 1972 he and his family moved to Palo Alto. Bill remained active at Transcentury through 1980, and he continued his interest in real estate investing and development until his death. His wife Bernadette sadly preceded him in death in 1992.
In 2005 after a long courtship, Bill married Claire Carew, formerly of San Francisco, and later adopted her children, Rodrigo and Maria.
Throughout his remarkable life, Bill was an exceptional father and grandfather, a terrific listener who provided the rare combination of endless encouragement tempered by wise counsel, a wonderfully kind man with a twinkle in his eye and a light, yet ever present sense of humor. He was an avid reader of history, a keen fan of the World Series, and a man with an enormous interest in the well-being of others. He was immensely proud of his children and grandchildren, always encouraging them to pursue their interests with passion and to strive for excellence, all the while leading by example. He never stopped "growing young." Bill was so much for so long and to so many, yet above all else was known as the truest of gentlemen.
Bill is survived by his wife, Claire; his five children, Claire, John, Paul, Rodrigo and Maria Chamberlain; his daughters-in-law, Rebecca Schwartz Chamberlain and Martha Witbeck Chamberlain; and his 10 grandchildren, Carl, William and Jack Eckert; Laura, Sarah and Kathryne Chamberlain; and Eliza, William, Maggie and Grace Chamberlain.
No words adequately express how much we will miss his voice and smile, yet no amount of time shall steal them from us. He is beloved in so many ways.
Family and friends are invited to share in a celebration of Bill's life at St. Albert the Great Church in Palo Alto on Aug. 18, 2012.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that contributions honoring Bill's memory may be made to Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, 2700 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
Tags: veteran, business