July 10, 1951 – December 13, 2020
James Anthony Biller was born in Ventura, CA, July 10, 1951, to Jack and Marjorie Biller. Growing up in Ventura, he surfed, sailed, played water polo for the Ventura High Cougars, and was one of the best swimmers Ventura High had ever seen, getting his varsity letter and pin as a sophomore and setting swimming records that stood for many years after he graduated in 1969. That Jim had a love of the beach, sailing, and everything that had to do with the water was obvious to everyone around him. He was a lifeguard on the beaches of Ventura during the late 60s and early 70s, and he was selected by California’s State senators to attend the California Maritime Academy, graduating in 1973. He spent the next several years working at sea as a third mate on various ships and tugboats around the world, traveling to places like Singapore, Bahrain, Tahiti, Alaska, the Carribean, and the Eastern Seaboard of the US.
In the winter of 1975, Jim was on a road trip to ski in the western US and landed in South Lake Tahoe. He thought it seemed like a great place to live, stopped his trip there, and decided to call Tahoe home. Soon after, he became Captain of the M.S. Dixie and eventually the M.S. Dixie II, a 500+ passenger sternwheeler tour boat. For 25 years, Jim was head Captain as well as a critical piece to the success of the entire Zephyr Cove Travel Systems operation. In the late 70s and early 80s, Jim was a fierce competitor in the local Windjammers Yacht Club sailing races where he raced his Santana 20, Nembrotha, to victory many times.
He married Rosemary Manning, also of Ventura, in March 1982, and they welcomed their daughters, Dondra (1986) and Briana (1988) into the world. Jim absolutely loved being a dad and raising kids in Tahoe. He coached soccer teams, taught skiing, was there for every dance recital and theater performance, and raised his daughters to love the outdoors while also having an appreciation for hard work, determination, and a serious sense of adventure, always with a good sense of humor.
In 1995, Jim and Rosemary separated and in 1996, he married Susan-Marie Hagen. The next eight years in Tahoe were filled with more fun and year-round adventures. Jim and Susan-Marie moved to Pacifica in 2004 where Jim went to work on tugboats in the San Francisco bay helping to build the new Bay Bridge. Deciding that they enjoyed coastal California and were now “snowbirds,” they eventually moved to the small town of Gualala on the North Coast. It was there that they lived seven amazing years as camp hosts at the Gualala Point Regional Park Campground. If there were ever two people that were made to be camp hosts, it was Jim and Susan-Marie with their welcoming smiles and desire to help everyone, always with a sea story ready to go for anyone who wanted to listen. Jim was a fantastic storyteller and lived by the motto, “If there isn’t a way, make one.”
Jim passed peacefully with his wife, daughters, and step-son by his side on Sunday December 13, 2020 after a short, but fierce, battle with lung cancer. He is survived by his wife, Susan-Marie Hagen, two daughters, Dondra Biller and Briana Biller, brothers, Don and Tom Biller, step-son, James Eowan, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Marjorie Biller, sister, Judy Biller, and step-son, Greg Eowan. Our family is forever grateful to Tom and Beverly Naso for their unconditional love and support at their Bay Area home during the last few weeks of Jim’s life.
A celebration of life will be planned for the future when friends and family are able to travel and gather. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Friends of Gualala River, an organization Jim was passionate about and involved in to forever protect the Gualala watershed and Gualala River on its way to the sea (http://gualalariver.org/).