Harry L. Chambers, 90, of Massac County, died Friday, June 20, 2014, near his home. Mr. Chambers was born in Monroe County, IN, on June 28, 1923.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, June 24, 2014, at 1:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Metropolis, with the Revs. John Cockrel and Jeff Bealmear officiating. Music will be provided by pianist Wanda Strubinger and vocalists Clark Williams and Logan Libby. Pallbearers will be his nine grandsons listed below. Burial will follow at Massac Memorial Gardens.
Mr. Chambers enlisted in the Army Air Corps immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but was rejected for not meeting the minimum height requirement. Later in the war the requirements were lessened, and he was drafted. He was placed in the Army Air Corps on the basis of his scores on the AGC test. He reported to Ft. Benjamin Harrison Army base near Indianapolis, IN. From there he was sent to Miami Beach, FL, where he applied for Cadets, but had to wait a year for acceptance. From Miami, he was transferred to Colorado State Teachers College at Greeley, CO, to train as an Engineering Clerk. Upon completion of training, he was assigned as an Engineering Operations Clerk to a P38 squadron based at Glendale, CA. The P38 squadron was then transferred to Everett, WA, to receive combat training before leaving for England. His appointment to the Cadets came right before his unit left for England. He found out later that over one-half of the 150 men in this unit were shot down, many of them in their first mission.
His first training as a Cadet took place at Moorhead State Teachers College in Moorhead, MN. It was in Moorhead that he soloed in his first single engine plane.
He went on to Merced, CA, for more Cadet training and pre-flight training. At Merced he worked on the aircraft used by the WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) who were testing new aircraft and training the advanced Cadet pilots. He never turned down a chance to get in the air and even accepted a free ride from one of the WASPs performing a test flight. Some of his most memorable training stories took place on this base where the men were rather skeptical of these women pilots. He was then sent to Santa Anna, CA, for his placement test and advanced training in his field. In Santa Anna at the USO club, he danced movie star/swimmer Esther Williams and met Bing Crosby. At this time he was classified as a Navigator and completed his training in Carlsbad, NM, and San Markus, TX.
On a furlough from training, he met his future wife Esther Hopper who was working with his sister at the RCA plant in Bloomington, IN, making short wave radios. He was running late for their first blind date and was still wearing his grease-covered clothes when he picked her up at the plant. This grease-covered clothing would become a familiar sight in their long marriage.
After the furlough, he completed RADAR training and his B-25 squadron was sent to Yuma, AR, where they received orders to move out to the Pacific. The atomic bombs were dropped before they left the United States, and their orders were suddenly cancelled. He received an honorable discharge from the Army Air Corps as First Lieutenant.
He later joined the Air Force Reserves and obtain the rank of Captain before retiring in 1959 when Bakalar Air Force Base (formerly Atterbury Air Force Base) was closed, and his unit was incorporated into another unit.
At the end of World War II, Mr. Chambers went to work for Public Service Company of Indiana working as a Control Operator in plants at Noblesville, Huntington, Kokomo, Indianapolis, Lafayette, and Attica. He moved to Metropolis, IL in April, 1952 to take a job as shift supervisor at the newly built Electric Energy, Inc. plant at Joppa, IL. At EEI he rose through the company ranks from Shift Supervisor to Supervisor of Operations to Assistant Plant Superintendent, to Plant Superintendent to Vice President. He retired from EEI as Vice President in December 1989. He returned to work as a consultant at the plant from February 1, 1990 to November 1995.
After retiring and consulting, he maintained an active interest in the community, including education and the electric power industry. The focus of his life after retirement was on his family. He traveled with his wife and spent time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and encouraged them in their academic and athletic endeavors.
He served on the Board of Directors of the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he was a member of the Prime Movers Committee of the Edison Electric Institute.
Mr. Chambers enjoyed his retirement on his farm restoring old cars, including Lincolns and Mustangs. He was a member of the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club, the Antique Automobile Club of America, the Mustang Club of America, and the Wild Horse Mustang Club. He won the prestigious AACA Senior Award with his 1965 Mustang GT convertible before selling it. Also, he was an avid fan of NASCAR and Indy racers.
Survivors include his wife of over 68 years, Esther Hopper Chambers; four daughters, Diana Douglas (Larry), Madonna Foster, Debbie Chambers, and Darla Mittendorf (Tom). He is also survived by thirteen grandchildren, Stephen Douglas, Cory Douglas, Tracy Douglas, Jemal Beggs (Nicole), Dominique Beggs Seymoure (Jay), Collin Foster (Mandy), Derek Foster (Stefanie), Jason Hayes, Joshua Hayes (Amy), Heather Hayes Atkinson (Alex), Levi Loverkamp (Julia), Kate Mittendorf Pereira (Kevin), and Isaac Mittendorf (Emma), 10 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Harry E. Chambers and Mabel Helton Chambers; one sister Bonnie Chambers Lindsey; one brother, Richard Chambers; and one son, Stephen L. Chambers.
Visitation will be held Monday, June 23, at Aikins-Farmer Funeral Home from 6-8 p.m.
Expressions of sympathy may be made to the American Cancer Society, 4503 W. Deyoung Street, Suite 200c, Marion, Illinois 62959, the American Heart Association, 3816 Paysphere Circle, Chicago, Illinois 60674, or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Tribute and Memorial Gifts, 1867 Lackland Hill Parkway, St. Louis, MO 63149.