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Michael ‘Mike’ James Chambers

Michael ‘Mike’ James Chambers.

Michael “Mike” James Chambers, 87, of Hamilton, slipped the surly bonds of earth on October 8, in Hamilton, Montana.

Mike was born on December 25, 1929, in Maidstone, County of Kent, England to James and Mina Chambers.

Mike’s life was filled with amazing adventures. At the young age of 10, as World War II was just starting, he was placed aboard a ship and sent to live in America. He was taken in and fostered by Dr. George and Helen VanGorder in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mike lived with his new family for six years, and the many experiences during this time helped to shape his personality. For example, his pet flying squirrel was the inspiration that led him to develop his love of flying and to eventually become an accomplished pilot. (His engine blew during his final solo flight, in 1972, requiring an unplanned but expertly executed emergency landing on a nearby highway.)

He returned to England in 1948, where he finished high school and then joined the Royal Air Force. After two years, at the age of 20, Mike returned to his cherished America and became an American citizen, an achievement of which he was very proud.

He traveled to Wichita, Kansas to live with his foster sister Betsy and her husband Dr. Donald Minkler. There he met and fell madly in love with his soul mate, Jody Carpenter. They were married nine months later and moved to California.

They raised three daughters; Treva, Debra, and Laura. Mike’s love of flying led to many memorable, and sometimes harrowing, vacations across the U.S., with a Cessna 172 substituting for the family van.

Mike worked at a Standard Gas Station in Concord, California, for three years and then for Pacific Telephone in Concord and Placerville for 27 years before retiring at the age of 52. The family vacationed frequently in Montana and in particular the Bitterroot Valley, and they moved to Hamilton, Montana, in 1985.

Mike lost his love, Jody, to cancer in 1998, after 45 years of loving marriage.

Mike loved people, loved kids, loved music (especially jazz), loved dogs, and over all loved life. He was an incredibly strong individual, who maintained his optimistic and cheerful outlook on life even in the face of the terrible chronic pain associated with arthritis. All who knew him were inspired by his strength and his courage, and we all benefited from the many happy times we shared with this incredible man.

Mike is preceded in death by his father, James; mother, Mina; foster father, Dr. George VanGorder; foster mother, Helen VanGorder; wife, Jody; and two children, Doug and Julie Chambers.

Mike is survived by his daughters, Treva (Paul) Coulter, Debra (Joe Nicol) Chambers and Laura (Brad) Boulter; grandson, Adam Chambers; as well as his sisters, Chris (Stan) Dryden, Ann Chambers, Betsy Minkler, Robert (Jane) VanGorder and Barbara Coffiin; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Mike requested that there be no funeral service, however, at a later date there will be a celebration of his life for all to enjoy. The family asks that in lieu of flowers memorial donations be sent to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation or the Bitterroot Humane Association. Condolences may be left for the family at

The family wishes to extend their gratitude to Beehive Homes of Hamilton, especially Cameron, Tanya, Melodie, Joseph, Teva, Amelia, and all the other wonderful staff at the Beehive.

the life of: Michael ‘Mike’ James Chambers
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