Loving husband, father and ‘Papa’
William Lee Davidson Chetney, a longtime area resident, died at home in Claremont on November 26, 2014. He was 76. Born July 1, 1938 in Wichita Falls, Texas, Mr. Chetney came to Ontario, California in 1946 following the death of his father.
As a boy, Bill attended St. George’s Catholic School, playing football and receiving most valuable player honors as their left-handed star quarterback.
A concussion suffered in a car accident made him unable to continue in contact sports in high school, so he became the yell leader at football games. Friends will remember hearing “Chaffey’s on the field and the field is hot” many times over the years. In high school, Bill was junior class president, a member of the Satyrs, a member of the Openers car club of Claremont and built his own fiberglass sports car. He also worked at Middough’s Men’s Store in Ontario. He graduated from Chaffey in 1957.
During college, Bill worked for Marston’s Department Store in San Diego and then in logistics for General Dynamics Astronautics, travelling to Atlas missile sites across the country. He returned to Pomona and worked for Ewart’s Men’s Clothing and for the Los Angeles County Fair in public relations, where his responsibilities included judging hog calling contests and demonstrating tumbling pigeons on the Romper Room children’s television show. On campus at Cal Poly, he served as president of the Entrepreneurs Club. He graduated in 1964 with a degree in business administration.
Following graduation, Mr. Chetney became a pharmaceutical sales representative for Pfizer Laboratories, covering the Los Angeles area. Always a leader and innovator, he noticed a need and acted on it, going to Mexico to bring back Spanish-language displays for Visine and other products for his East Los Angeles-area pharmacies, making information more available to the customers and increasing sales as well.
Mr. Chetney returned to work in the local area in 1964 as Assistant General Manager of the Pomona Chamber of Commerce. In 1966, he joined Hansch Financial Group and began a long career in the insurance and financial planning industry. He won numerous industry awards and was a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table.
Mr. Chetney, along with his wife and sons, was active and committed in all aspects of community life. In Pomona, he belonged to the Kiwanis Club and to the Junior Chamber of Commerce, where he was involved in projects as diverse as installing seat belts when they became required, painting the interior of city buses, refurbishing Palomares Adobe park and Holcomb Valley Boy Scout Camp, running the Jay Bar food concession at the LA County Fair, admitting visitors to the Winternationals drag races, helping with the Special Olympics and participating in the Christmas Parade. He received the Distinguished Service Award for community involvement, and served as the organization’s president in 1972.
In Claremont, Mr. Chetney became a member of Claremont Sunrise Rotary, a volunteer baseball coach for his sons’ little league team, the Beavers, and a board member of Claremont Collegiate School and Casa Colina Hospital. An active member of Red Hill Country Club, his volunteer work for Casa Colina often involved golf tournaments held to support the wheelchair sports program and Padua Village residential living centers.
Mr. Chetney loved to entertain, and many functions were held at the Chetney home on Lafayette Road. If you needed a place for a meeting or a wedding, Bill would volunteer. New Year’s Day parties went from morning to night. Birthdays could transform the backyard into Chetney Beach or a pirate’s cove. A move or a remodel became an event, filled with friends and food. A good time was had by all.
Above all, family came first. Bill was a loving father who worked hard to teach his sons important values and to provide them with valuable experiences. They worked alongside him on volunteer activities, helped entertain guests and travelled to other countries with him or with his encouragement. He was proud of the people they became.
“Wild Bill” believed you could accomplish anything you put your mind to. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2005, he fought back and enjoyed almost another decade, travelling to Hawaii many times and to Italy for a friend’s wedding. Doctors continued to be amazed. Even in his final days, he was considering another trip to Hawaii.
Bill is survived by his wife of 55 years, Judith; by his three sons and their wives, William R. (Kim) of Capistrano Beach and Robert Cole (Julie) and Gregory Ewing (Sophia) Chetney of Claremont; by his sister, Barbara Skimina of Fallbrook; and by his brothers-in-law, John Svenson of La Verne and Jack Bliss of Phoenix.
He also leaves nephews David Svenson (Kazumi), John Svenson (Sharon), Bill Skimina (Tatiana), Jason Bliss (Lisa) and Jared Bliss; nieces Ann Svenson Agan (Dougall) and Suzanne Skimina; and seven adored and adoring grandchildren—Sara Elisabeth, William James, Emily Elyse, Anna Bliss, Molly Jean Louise, Maya Anne and Jaxson Cole Chetney—who loved their “Papa” beyond measure.
A memorial mass will be held on Saturday, December 13 at noon at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 435 Berkeley Ave. in Claremont.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made if you wish to Casa Colina Foundation, City of Hope or Boys and Girls Club of San Juan Capistrano.