John Richard Kamber
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Johnny passed away on July 12, 2014 after a short illness.
Grateful for having shared his life are his daughter Annie (Deane) Barker of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and their children Alec, Gabby, and Isabella; and a son Richie Kamber of Wood Ridge, New Jersey and his son J.R. Kamber (named after his grandfather). He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, and his wife.
Johnny Kamber was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on August 29, 1927 and was raised in Des Moines, Iowa. He began boxing when he was 16-years-old. After winning the Iowa AAU Featherweight Championship in 1945, Johnny joined the Navy and was stationed in the Pacific on the islands of Saipan and Guam.
Johnny won almost every Navy boxing tournament in the Pacific from 1946 to 1948, including: Saipan Island Champion, Guam Island Champion, Marianas Islands All-Navy Champion, Marshalls and Gilbert All-Navy Champion, All-Navy West-Pac Champion, All-Navy Central Pacific Champion, and Com-Serv-Pac-West Area Champion.
In 1947, representing Guam in the All-Navy Championships at San Diego, he lost an unpopular split decision to Bill Bossio. In 1948, John lost another split-decision for the All-Navy Featherweight title to Jimmy Ithia from the USS Mississippi.
One month later, Johnny came back to beat the All-Navy champion to represent the Navy in the U.S. Olympic trials in Washington, DC. John missed representing the U.S. at the 1948 London Olympics by one win.
After being discharged from the Navy in 1948, John came to New Jersey to turn professional under the guidance of Jack Kenny, turning pro in 1949 as a lightweight. He lost only three decisions in his first 31 professional fights. From 1949-1954, Johnny boxed in every arena in New Jersey and New York, including St. Knicks and Madison Square Garden.
During a 10-year boxing career, having over 150 amateur and professional fights, Johnny was knocked out only once. In 1992, he was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.
After his boxing career, Johnny married and resided in Rutherford, New Jersey. He worked as an iron worker foreman for the remainder of his professional life. During this time, he had the privilege to work on Giants Stadium, and the Twin Towers.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer and dementia in 2005, Johnny moved to Sioux Falls to live with his daughter and her family. Johnny was steadfast and vigilant in fighting his battle with dementia for 10 years. He never lost his sense of humor, or the ability to wink and smile. Johnny donated his body to further medical research.
A celebration of life service will take place July 19, 2014 at Central Baptist Church, 3100 Ralph Rogers Road, Sioux Falls, SD.
Published in The Argus Leader on July 15, 2014