James Milton Oberman, 94, of Naples, Fla., passed away Dec. 28, 2017, at Avow Hospice House. He was formerly from Normal, where he spent his summers since becoming a Florida resident after retirement.
Originally and always a Hawkeye, born in Yarmouth, Iowa, to Claude and Ora Oberman. He graduated from Yarmouth High School and was attending Burlington Junior College (Iowa) on a basketball scholarship when the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. His entire team enlisted, but won the 1941-1942 Junior College State Tournament before induction.
A veteran of World War II, Jim served as a B-17 pilot with the Mighty 8th Army Air Corps. He and his crew completed 35 missions, mainly over Germany, with the 94th Bomb Group - 331 Bomb Squadron based at Rougham Field, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England (East Anglia), from 1943 to 1945.
Jim was a life member of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Historical Society; life member of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum, Savannah, Ga.; life member of the 94th Bomb Group Association and a board member for 16 years, and president for four years.
Jim was a founding member of the American Air Museum in Britain at Duxford; an active member of the Air Force Museum Foundation in Dayton, Ohio; and a lifetime charter member of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He was the last surviving member of his “wonderful crew of 10” aboard their B-17 named “Stormy Weather.”
He was awarded numerous medals including the U.S. Air Medal with five Oak Leaf clusters, European African Middle Eastern Ribbon with four Bronze Service Stars, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart, and the Croix de Guerre from France. The U.S. flag always flew at his residence.
Following his discharge, Oberman graduated with a bachelor of science degree from University of Northern Iowa, and earned his master of science degree from the University of Iowa. He taught and coached at Cedar Falls High School, later at Newton High School, both in Iowa.
Leaving the coaching field, he started a State Farm Insurance agency in 1954 in Cedar Falls, became an Agency Manager in Davenport, then served as regional agency director with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington until his retirement in 1988. At UNI, he was a member of Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity, and also Phi Epsilon Kappa at University of Iowa.
Jim became a member of Masonic Lodge 28, New London, Iowa, in 1946; Bloomington Consistory in 1962; Mohammed Shrine, Peoria, 1963; and McLean County Shrine Club. He was a lifelong Republican active in Iowa, Illinois, later Florida; a board member and chairman of the Oberman-Beck Foundation; former member of Bloomington Country Club and the Club at the Strand, Naples. He was a member of St. John's Lutheran Church, Bloomington, and Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Naples, Fla.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Claude and Ora Hazel Westfall Oberman; brothers, Plon and Jack; nephews, Leon and Dickie. Survivors include his wife of 70 years, Arlene "Jay" Jensen Oberman; children, Cynthia, Jeffrey (Linda), Joel; grandchildren, James, Kaeli, Dane, Sean and Lauren; great-grandchildren, Wren and Knox; plus many nieces, nephews and families.
Family remembers Jim as a patriotic, charitable, loyal, honest, faithful, loving father, husband and friend who always held himself to the highest standards. He had a passionate work ethic, and grew up on a farm in Iowa where they also bred, raised and showed Percheron horses. Jim was a family man and most enjoyed sunsets over the Gulf from his lanai, gardening, yard work, sports and vacations driving his family all over the USA, Mexico, Canada and Europe, plus numerous family reunions.
A memorial service will be 1 p.m. Tuesday at Christus Victor Lutheran Church, 15600 North Tamiami Trail, Naples, FL 34110. Memorial services will be planned later in Illinois and Iowa.
Any memorial donations may be sent to Shriners Hospitals for Children, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL 33607 or a charity of your choice.