Obituary: James Wellington Vandeveer
May 24, 1925 – August 23, 2023
James W. Vandeveer was born on May 24, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Wilda Ruth and Welzie Wellington Vandeveer.
Jim was the founder and Chairman of Vantex Enterprises, Inc., a Dallas based holding company with a diverse portfolio of operations including oil and gas exploration, real estate development, banking, air charter services, farming, and retail package stores (Centennial Fine Wines and Spirits).
Jim’s career was a long and colorful one. Growing up in Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie, he graduated from University School just in time to enter WWII right after his 18th birthday. Following several years of combat in both the European and Pacific theaters during WWII, he returned to the states and enrolled in UCLA in 1945. He graduated in 1949 with a B.S. in Business Administration. During his time at UCLA, he met and married Betty Lou Ober. This was the beginning of their nearly 75-year marriage. Jim and Betty moved to Dallas in 1951, which has served as their primary home ever since.
Jim’s first job after college was in Sales for Allied Oil Co., but it wasn’t long before he formed his own oil company, Vanson Production Corporation. Jim’s efforts in the oil industry caught the eye of industry executives at Ashland Oil (now MarathonAshland), and in 1964 he was asked to join the Ashland Board of Directors. At the time he retired from the Ashland Board, he was its longest serving director, with 32-years of service. His steady and competent leadership helped steer the company through many difficult times.
In the early 1950’s, Jim fell in love with the sport of snow skiing, and in 1959 he built a vacation home in the sleepy little town of Aspen, Colorado. He and Betty became very involved in the community over the years – donating the land for the Aspen Chapel, and developing the Meadowood and Blue Lake subdivisions. They were also famous for their 4th of July parties at their ranch in Old Snowmass.
Jim also had a keen interest in fine wines, and in 1967 his love of wine led him to purchase Centennial Liquors, later Centennial Fine Wines and Spirits. He grew Centennial into a successful 40-store chain which operated throughout the DFW Metroplex until its sale in 2010.
A fierce competitor on and off the field, Jim had many interesting pastimes. As a young man he won a number of Golden Gloves titles, and furthered his pugilistic interests during the war by becoming the Middleweight Champion of the 3rd Army. As a pilot, he logged over 10,000 hours, in addition to flying his aerobatic “Pitts SB2” bi-plane in air shows and his P-51 Mustang as a member of the Commemorative Air Force. He was an expert skier, and an avid heli-skiier. He never missed his annual trip to the Canadian Rockies for these powder adventures. He also loved tennis, golf, racquet ball, white water rafting, and scuba diving.
His many employees, friends, and family remember him for his enduring loyalty, fierce determination, personal strength, and all-encompassing sense of fairness. He was not always easy, but he was always fair.
Jim also had a deep faith in God, and was quite generous with those less fortunate than he. Some projects especially dear to him are the Union Gospel Mission, Child Help, and the Dallas Theological Seminary.
Jim is survived by his daughters Vicki Moore (Pete) of Harlingen, TX, Cindi Vandeveer (Martin Bielik) of Aspen, CO, as well as a nephew, Van Basham (Teresa) of Minneapolis, MN. He is preceded in death by his wife Betty, and his sister Ruth Drain. The family also wishes to gratefully acknowledge Maria Rios and her family for their loving care and compassion during Jim’s long illness. Her tireless devotion has been a blessing to the entire family.
A celebration of life will be held at 4pm Thursday, September 7, 2023, at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home Chapel. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Child Help, the Union Gospel Mission Dallas, or a charity of your choice.