Burton Frank Chamberlin
June 20, 1937 – December 26, 2020
Burton Frank Chamberlin, 83, resident of Vancouver, WA, died at home on December 26, 2020, of cancer. A lifetime advocate for youth and the disadvantaged, he inspired and directed humanitarian projects in the U.S. and abroad, right to the end. He was an adoptive father, a Masters graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, a friend and mentor to many. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ruth Elaine Jutila Chamberlin, and 8 children--Jordan, Nairobi, Kenya; Jamie, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Lindsey, Atlanta, Georgia; Tucker, Wichita, Kansas; Benjamin, Lynnwood, Washington; Sherry, Vancouver, Washington; Anna, Edmonds, Washington; Katie, Wenatchee, Washington, and 12 grandchildren--Curtis, Jasmine, and Makayla, Atlanta, Georgia; Justin and Jacob Chamberlin, Wichita, Kansas; Joseph (JJ), Haile, and Hannah, Edmonds, Washington; Errol and Esme, Nairobi, Kenya; Izaiah and Jacob Gutierrez, Wenatchee, Washington, and 2 great-grandchildren--Caleb and Cameron, Atlanta, Georgia. Private memorials were held. Donations in his memory may be made to World Vision or to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Homeless Ministry, 1309 Franklin Street, Vancouver, WA 98660. Please see the slideshow at https://youtu.be/_ukU3VI1O2c.
Wife notes: We met on a misty August morning in 1957, in the parking lot of Waddles Restaurant, Portland, Oregon. Burt was escorting kids from Berkeley to Young Life's Malibu in Canada, and this was a breakfast stop. I lived in Vancouver, across the Columbia River from Waddles. The next day I too would head for Malibu, where Burt and I would be camp counselors. I could have waited to meet him then. But a mutual friend insisted that we meet now, that we were meant for each other. The night before, after yet another polite first date, I got dropped off at Nancy Smith's home. I fell on a bed and sobbed and moaned, bewailing casual dating. I was tired of it! Tired, tired! (I was 19.) Next morning at Waddles, at 7 a.m., Nanc and I stood waiting for the bus to unload. I was puffy-eyed from crying the night before. Burt stepped one step down, and paused, holding up the line, and caught my eyes. I still get chills. Tall. Gorgeous. Lean, athletic. Fuzzy-eyed from a sleeping pill the kids snuck into his Pepsi. His eyes were blue-green, with lashes so long they could sweep a girl off her feet. Zap! ...Zing! Literally, love at first sight. We were married the next June, the day after he turned 21, the age he had to be to get a marriage license. Our love for Jesus, and His love for us, bonded us extra-tight. We were crazy about each other for 62 years. This week, when Burt went to be with the Lord, our love was sweeter and more intimate than ever.
Near the end, he talked with angels. It wasn't the first time he'd talked with an angel. In 1971, we lived in Bolinas, California, and Burt worked in San Francisco, an hour's beach-and-mountain drive away. One day a semi truck missed a curve, slammed into our VW beetle, and threw Burt out the passenger's side. He felt the gentlest kind of lifting, up into the air above his body, and he was flown around a nighttime globe. Lights twinkled in spots, here, there. As they flew over clusters of light, the angel who carried him said the lit places were cities where Burt would work. Burt said no, he wanted to stay in the angel's world, in perfect joy. The angel said it wasn't his time. Burt needed to go back and tell the medics to watch out for his spleen. He would find his shoes draped over his ankles, his shoelaces tying his shoes together. Burt woke lying on the grass, shoes draped over his ankles. He told the medics to watch out for his spleen; later, X-rays showed that his spleen had nearly ruptured. From then on, Burt had recurring pain in his left rib area, and he worked in cities across the U.S., Southeast Asia, and Africa. Before his death, he communicated silently with angels but had trouble talking to us, due to the stroke that had led to the ER and discovery of metastasized cancer. A Hospice nurse was at the house with two of the kids when Burt got stuck finding words. "I can't... they, uh...I...augh!...blah, blah, blah!" --the blahs delivered with downward jerks of his chin. We all laughed. Even in pain, talking about something sad (his inability to speak clearly), he made us laugh. For several days, he saw "people" all around his bed. "So many people!" When I asked if they were angels. Yes. Were they inviting him to go with them? Yes. I told him I would never stop loving him, and I wanted him free from pain. I gave him permission to go if it was his time. He said repeatedly that he loved me, and did I know how much? He wanted the kids, grandkids, and "all, all" to know he loved them. Later he listened, eyes fixed in space, saying, "M-hmm...m-hmm," as if getting directions. Then he said, "They're singing!" He made little sounds like words. Asked if he was talking to someone, he said, "I'm singing." Now he's singing with the angels in his full, fine voice. And if angels are allowed silliness, between songs he's making them laugh.
Burton Frank Chamberlin
January 7, 2021
It was a blessing to be a neighbor of Burt in recent years. He was a kind and cheerful man, always asking questions that made it challenging to focus on him. I appreciated his vast knowledge, our shared experiences in Tanzania, and his obvious love for Ruthie and family. Keep singing sweetly with the angels dear man.
January 4, 2021
I remember Burt coming with you to the "Girl Friends" weekend at Marilyn's home. That was the first time I saw him, this loved and loving man, the very one whose gaze swept you off your feet. I am glad that he came with you to say hello to us, brief though it was.
My thoughts are with you as you go through these sad times.