Chester "Chet" Brown passed away March 29, 2014, at the age of 98.
He was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Aug. 31, 1915, to Earl and Blanche Brown. The family made their way to Burbank, Calif., in 1923, where he and his only sibling, June Francis, graduated from Burbank High School.
He had an auto mechanics garage in Burbank in 1940 called Chet's Automotive and built his first home of two that he would build nearby. He leased out his business to go into the Navy and served from 1942 to 1945 as a motor machinist Mate 1st Class where he did overhaul and maintenance on the ship's engines.
He married Billie Mae Archer when he got out of the Navy and had four children — Michael, Kelly, Stacey and Perry.
He had a love of fishing and boats and bought his first boat the "Dead Battery" in his mid-20s. It was 22 feet long. The next boat he bought was the "Pronto," a 30-foot Chris Craft that could reach a speed of 40 knots an hour. He started a charter business giving high speed boat rides in Long Beach.
In 1952, he launched a lifelong boat building career with the "Bimiche." It was 35 feet long, built of steel and used to start his first commercial sport fishing business. He built the boat with longitudinal framing and unique design features not seen at that time. It had a wide beam and a live bait well both being unusual for that time. He hauled passengers out of Long Beach and Wilmington.
In 1954, he built the 40-foot "Reville" also using a new method of construction. He designed the hull, and it was one of the first boats to be built that size out of laminated plywood with longitudinal framing and fiberglass. Also a commercial sport fishing boat, the laminated plywood technique was stronger, lighter, faster and innovative for the time. He began a trend that other boat builders would soon follow. He moved his family to San Pedro to be closer to his sport fishing business and built his second home there for his family.
By 1956, he had tired of hauling passengers and sold his boat. He also sold his house in San Pedro and moved his family into an apartment so he could rent space to start building a 40-foot sailboat, the "Destiny." Again, he used a new method in wood construction called the strip planked method. During this time he worked as a marine mechanic for Marine Engine Service.
Chet and Billie had a dream of moving to Hawaii, and three years after starting the "Destiny" he took Billie, Michael, Kelly, a navigator and crew man and sailed to the Hawaiian Islands. Upon reaching Hawaii, he sent for his two youngest daughters, Stacey and Perry, to join them. Chet and his family lived on their boat in the Alawai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu before moving to a house in Kaneohe. While in Hawaii he worked for the Hawaiian Extruders, a plastic products manufacturer. He sold the "Destiny" in 1960 and relocated his family to Santa Barbara.
He soon had a job working for Lindwall Boat Works and bought a new two-bedroom home in Goleta and immediately converted the two-car garage into two extra bedrooms with an added garage. He then built another boat named the "Euekai." It was 25 feet long and built with recreation in mind. It was built with the same laminated plywood technique as the "Reville."
He soon sold that boat and in 1962 started work on a 52-foot steel commercial fishing boat named the "Dawn Star." It was reportedly the largest steel boat built in Santa Barbara up to that time. He worked for Santa Barbara Yachts as a marine mechanic during this time. It launched in 1964, and he and his family became some of the first live-aboard in the Santa Barbara Harbor.
It was also during this time that he started another business named Service Afloat that he operated off of the "Dawn Star" in the Santa Barbara Harbor. He assisted other boat owners with general and mechanical repairs. In 1968 he took the "Dawn Star" along with his son out for her first albacore fishing season.
In 1968, the Atomic Energy Commission chartered the "Dawn Star" for research in the Johnston Atoll, 800 miles southwest of Hawaii. He took wife Billie, son Mike, Stacey, Perry and his sister June and 12 days later delivered the boat to Hawaii where the charter began. The family vacationed in Hawaii until the boat returned from its charter. In 1969 he took the "Dawn Star" to work in the Gulf of Alaska. The boat was under contract with General Oceanographics and he outfitted the boat to carry its 15-foot mini submarine named the "Nekton." They were making a subsea survey of the gulf's geologic features for four oil companies. He sold the "Dawn Star" to General Oceanographics by year's end.
Chet then started building another boat named the "Archer" in 1970 and launched it in 1973. It was 63 feet long. It was laminated plywood and built at the bottom of Santa Barbara Street. He fished albacore with it until 1975 when he decided to sell it.
His son Mike had already begun building his own steel commercial fishing boats when Chet went to work for him. He would help Mike finish his boat the 65-foot "Wendy." He worked on the interior, engines and generators and helped fit it with drag gear. He fished with Mike and his wife Paulette on their boat until 1978.
Chet also helped Michael build his next boat the "Mikette" in Oxnard from 1978 to 1980. It was in 1982 that he took a break and bought a Rotor Way Helicopter kit and proceeded to make a helicopter and trailer that he would work on for the next two years. He sold it after completion.
He also helped Mike build another boat, the 124-foot "Kami M." in Anacortes, Wash., from 1989-91. He then helped rebuild and repower another boat (also named the Kami M.) from 1991-92. He went on to help his son again rebuilding the "Wendy Sea" (a boat Mike bought in Nova Scotia) and by helping him install refrigeration and trolling polls. He spent his later years between Washington State, Ventura and Santa Barbara.
Chet pursued his passion throughout his life and will always be remembered for his humor, honesty, integrity, ability to teach and mentor, and his ability to start a job and stay with it until completion. He will be greatly missed. Aloha.
Chet is survived by his sister, June Francis; his four children, Michael Brown (Paulette), Kelly Rangel, Stacey Brown and Perry Adameck (David); his grandchildren, Tracey Cruz (Alex), Billy Rangel (Brandy Sanchez), Wendy Brown, Kami Jennings, Aprile Hill (Bill), and Matthew and Shelby Adameck; his great-grandchildren, Jordan Hill, Akeila Garcia-Hill and Bella and Lucas Cruz. He was preceded in death by his wife, Billie Brown; Marie Hartman (long-term relationship); Ada Schmidt (long-term relationship); and one grandchild, Tanner Adameck.
Chet's family would like to thank the caregivers Mary Reese-Upton, Christy Harter, Josie Eulin, Kathy Abramovitz, John Shires, Rafael Lopez and Linda Trujillo for their compassionate care. The family would also like to thank the staff at Samarkand and Mission Villa. Donations can be made to Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara.
A veteran's service was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills on April 5, followed by a celebration of life at Craig Brooker's home in Santa Barbara.
For pictures and more of Chet's history, his online obituary can be accessed by clicking here.