In Memory

Charles McChesney Kober - Class Of 1941

Charles McChesney Kober

Charles M Kober - he was an architect who sailed. He was a sailor who planned mammoth commercial projects such as Los Angeles' Vermont-Wilshire subway station. In 1984, he melded the vocation with the avocation to help guide the yachting events for the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Charles McChesney "Chuck" Kober, who raced or coached in yachting regattas at five Olympics, died October 22 at a Bangor, Maine, marina called Journey's End. His family said he was preparing for a cruise aboard his J-40, the Shibui. He was 78.

No question Kober was a highly successful architect. But just as certainly, while his mind may have been on planning the 1.3-million-square-foot Dearbrook Mall in Houston or the gigantic retail complex on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, his heart lay on the sea. Kober, no stranger to Olympic events, became involved with the Los Angeles plans in 1980 when he was asked to suggest a place for the yacht races. The waters off Long Beach where he so often sailed, he said instinctively, rating them "very good but unlike any others . . . with a wave and chop character which takes a little bit of extra skill and makes for good competition." With the site approved, the International Olympic Committee delegated running of the yacht competition to the Europe-based International Yacht Racing Union (now the International Sailing Federation), which handed off the assignment to the U.S. Yacht Racing Union (now U.S. Sailing). Kober was its president. That gave Kober the responsibility for staging the lengthy U.S. trials--a two-month event he considered unwieldy. But he pulled that off flawlessly, served on three Olympic planning committees, chaired the opening ceremonies for the yachting events in Long Beach and helped Olympics yachting commissioner Ted Hinshaw organize the actual competition.

Kober was born to the role. A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, he grew up in Portland, Oregon, and San Marino, where as a boy he helped his father build a Snipe in their garage. He could sail before he could drive, and progressively raced Snipes, Penguins, International 14s, Dragons and Cal 40s. He competed in the Trans-Pacific Yacht Race and was a member of the U.S. Olympic yachting teams in 1960, 1964 and 1972. He managed and coached the American team in the 1968 and 1980 Olympics. Kober also managed the U.S. team for the Pan American Games in 1979 in Caracas, Venezuela, where drugs became a major issue. But he was certain drugs would never become a problem in the yachting events planned in Los Angeles. "We [the sailors at Caracas] weren't tested . . . but I saw no evidence of" drug use, he told The Times in 1984 before the Los Angeles Games. "Since I've been involved in the Olympics . . . drug use [in yachting] has been nonexistent."

Kober, who introduced and coached many young people in sailing, was a founder, president and director of the Pacific Coast Sailing Foundation, which administers the United States Sailing Center in Long Beach. In 1990, he earned the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy, U.S. sailing's highest honor, in recognition of his work as a volunteer leader as well as competitor. In his retirement, Kober continued to race his Etchells-22 off Alamitos Bay, where he once served as commodore of the yacht club, and to cruise the East Coast aboard the Shibui.

As for his landlubber days, Kober earned an economics degree at Stanford and then studied architecture at USC. Operating under Charles Kober Associates and other names as he acquired liaisons with various partners and companies, Kober combined his economics background and his creativity to design regional shopping centers, high-rise office complexes and residential developments. "The architect-businessman must involve himself not only in managing and financing his own operation," Kober told The Times' real estate editor in 1970, "but he must be able to thoroughly understand the economics of the project and the legal documents, leases, restrictions and everything else connected with it." As chairman, Kober gradually concentrated more and more on financial management, marketing and client relations than on designing specific structures.

Asked what an Olympic visitor might expect to see in Los Angeles in 1984, the architect said: "An architectural hodgepodge. A hodgepodge it is, but that's part of its charm. It's part of a city that has spread out to extreme outer limits, that grew out and is now growing back in, filling in the gaps as part of its maturing process. . . . I see Los Angeles as a city that's going from adolescence to maturity architecturally, economically and culturally."

Kober is survived by his wife, Adra Merrill Kober (SPHS '41); one daughter, Bonnie Kober Peterson; one son, Booey Kober; and four grandsons.

Los Angeles Times, November 4, 2001