Bill Lorbeer, described as a relentlessly positive man with a huge heart and a Belmont Shore fixture, died April 21 at the City of Hope Medical Center surrounded by family.
He was 59.
"He had such a big heart, and was always positive," Carmen Lorbeer, Bill's wife of 15 years, said. "He fought (cancer) so hard; he never gave up, and was always positive with us."
For much of the last six years, Bill Lorbeer fought serious illnesses while still maintaining a "living large Bill" persona, his daughter Lily Lorbeer said. In 2013, he beat a rare skin infection called necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly called the flesh-eating disease — at one point, doctors gave him a 5% chance of survival.
Then two years ago, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, Carmen Lorbeer said. During treatment, the disease became leukemia. But he beat it all.
"He was cancer-free when he passed," Carmen said. "He beat cancer. It was an infection. It wasn't all that complex, but his immune system was so compromised (from cancer treatments), he couldn't beat that."
Bill Lorbeer was born to Joyce and Bud Lorbeer on Feb. 13, 1960. He grew up in Belmont Shore, immersed in the waterfront life of swimming, diving and boating, according to his sister, Wendi Bublitz.
"He was always generous," Wendi said. "He would go into debt so he could give us elaborate (Christmas) gifts. Even if we were fighting, he would give me these elaborate gifts."
Bill became friends with Jim Lockington when he was 5 years old, and the two remained friends to the end.
"Bill was a lifelong ocean activity and boating enthusiast and he was always happiest when on or in the water," Lockington said. "One of my earliest memories of good times with Bill was at Camp Fox, the YMCA water activities camp located on Catalina Island. We were 13 years old the first time we were there together. We both went there for several summers running and Bill, in fact, continued to go as a volunteer camp counselor even after he was too old to go as a participant."
Water also was a medium to bond with Lily, his daughter.
"He convinced me and helped me to get certified to SCUBA dive," she said, "so we could dive together. We had so many good times diving."
That bond typified Bill, Carmen said. The couple met when Carmen was working for one of Lorbeer Equity Management's tenants in Belmont Shore.
Bill joined his father, Bud Lorbeer, in Lorbeer Equity Management, owner of several properties on Second Street. He became involved in the local business politics, serving as chair of both the Belmont Shore Business Association and the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Commission. He was obsessed with doing the right thing for the Shore, Carmen said.
"I still remember when he researched this Japanese parking garage idea that used elevators," she said, laughing. "He was always looking for ways to get more parking for the Shore."
While working with the community was important to him, sharing a good life with others was his passion, Lily said.
"His perfect day was being out on the boat, hosting people," Lily said. "He loved Christmas, and he loved hosting people."
"Give him a good cigar, a Mount Gay and tonic and his dog Jake (a Springer Spaniel), and he was happy," Carmen added. "He loved life, and loved sharing it."
Lorbeer is survived by his wife Carmen and daughter Lily, and sisters Wendi Bublitz and Cyndy Seibert.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to City of Hope in Bill Lorbeer's name. Mail checks to 1500 E. Duarte Rd., Duarte, CA 91010 and include Lorbeer's name as well as your name and address. For questions, call (866)-683-HOPE.
The family will be hosting a celebration of life soon. For more information, reach out to Carmen Lorbeer.