James V. Bitner
Rockport — James V. Bitner of Rockport passed away peacefully in his home overlooking the harbor on Oct. 18, 2012 at the age of 91. Beloved by family, friends and the community, he was truly a member of the Greatest Generation.
Bitner was loved by all who knew him for his ever present smile, his positive nature, his unfailing generosity, his deeply held feelings of responsibility and commitment to his family and work, and his years of community service.
Born in 1921 on a farm in Amish countryside in Paradise, Pa., Jim Bitner received his early education in one-room school houses and eventually attended the University of Virginia, majoring in engineering. After crossing paths as a young boy with Charles Lindberg, he was inspired to be a pilot during World War II, although lifelong asthma kept him from serving. Instead, he dedicated himself to his work at the Martin Company in Baltimore, designing equipment for airplanes and missiles. It was here that he met the love of his life, Virginia Lee Cox. They married in 1943 and gave birth to two daughters and a son.
Jim and Jinny moved the family to Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1960 where he became president of the Instrument Division of Lear Siegler, Inc., under the tutelage and inspiration of the legendary inventor Bill Lear. This division, which developed automated flight equipment, was the largest employer in that city, numbering upwards of 3,000 employees. He met future presidents and famous astronauts while in this position and traveled to locations all over the world.
Bitner later transferred to Los Angeles as corporate vice president of Lear Siegler, from which he retired in 1983. On retirement, Jim and his wife relocated to the beautiful town of Rockport, living a stone’s throw from the waters of the picturesque harbor and a long way from “life in the fast lane” represented by L.A. Together they made wonderful friends, sailed the Penobscot Bay, found countless charitable avenues, and generously assisted people near and dear to their hearts.
Jim Bitner found volunteer service that was second nature to him at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine and was on the board of trustees up to his last days. After Jinny passed away in 2000, he also devoted himself to the First Congregational Church of Camden, occupying the position of treasurer for many years.
To each of these organizations and many others in the Rockport area he brought a particularly successful business strategy he learned at the University of Michigan years before: He trained them in a unique method of planning for the future which married an organization’s vision, goals and actions specifically and precisely with its budget, resulting in financially stabilizing these organizations and leaving them with money invested in their futures.
Bitner is survived by daughters Ellen, of North Carolina, Sally, of California, and son Chris, of Colorado, as well as their spouses, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He will always be an inspiration as one of the finest in his generation and will forever be remembered in our hearts.
Funeral services will be announced at a later date. Condolences and memories may be shared with the Bitner family by visiting their book of memories at longfuneralhomecamden.com.