San Bernardino philanthropist Chuck Obershaw of Obershaw Toyota dies at 92

San Bernardino philanthropist Chuck Obershaw of Obershaw Toyota dies at 92

Philanthropist Chuck Obershaw, an auto dealership owner who funded scholarships and food for students at Cal State San Bernardino and throughout the area, died Thursday, May 23. He was 92.


Obershaw died peacefully at home after going out for pancakes, said his son, David Obershaw.


Chuck Obershaw served in the 187th paraglider infantry regiment of the 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific Theater. (Courtesy of Chuck Obershaw)

Obershaw donated at least $2 million to Cal State San Bernardino, in addition to giving substantial sums to San Bernardino Valley College and the San Bernardino City Unified School District, though his contributions were more than monetary, said CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales.


“You can’t measure his lifetime support just in dollars,” Morales said. “He’s had an extraordinary influence not just on Cal State San Bernardino but throughout the region, particularly the city of San Bernardino.”


The Obershaws endowed scholarships in the Jack H. Brown College of Business & Public Administration, the College of Education and Intercollegiate Athletics. In 2017, they gave $1 million to establish the Charles & Shelby Obershaw Endowment for Student Success, which supports the social and academic success of students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Renaissance Scholars program, the DEN Food Pantry and the Entrepreneurship program in the Brown College, Morales said.


Obershaw owned Chuck Obershaw Toyota, which after he sold it became Toyota of San Bernardino.


He kept it immaculate and never sold a car he wouldn’t drive himself, David Obershaw said — words he took literally.


When a customer would storm into the office saying there was a problem with the service they’d received on their car, Obershaw would quickly agree that he needed to fix the problem as soon as possible, his son said.


“He handed them his keys and said, ‘You drive my car and I’ll drive yours until we get this fixed,’” he said. “His integrity, his honesty, his desire to take good care of his customers was just extraordinary.”


The reaction typically led the customer to say, with shock, that Obershaw had made it hard to be mad at him.


“My dad had kind of a cute grin and said, ‘That’s kind of what I had in mind,’” Obershaw recalled.


A World War II veteran who served in the Pacific theater in the 11th Airborne Division, Obershaw worked in The Sun’s advertising department in the 1950s, before taking a weekend job selling cars. He shifted careers after making more in a weekend at the Mercury dealership than in two weeks at The Sun, according to his son.


That enabled him to buy a 25% share of San Bernardino’s Toyota dealership in 1965, before the brand was big in the area, and by 1970 he owned it completely, David Obershaw said.



He also supported the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, donating yearly and once loaning $25,000 with only a handshake agreement that it would be repaid when that was possible, said past president Mary Schnepp.


“This enabled children in the community who are less fortunate for the first time hear a live orchestra and bring their parents,” Schnepp wrote in an email. “Today we have children grown up now playing in small orchestras. One man can make a difference.”


Born in Saginaw, Mich., Chuck Obeshaw was committed to helping San Bernardino, the city where he lived since 1942 and that he credited with allowing his success, David Obershaw said.


Shelly Obershaw, who taught elementary school for more than 20 years in San Bernardino, then later spent 12 years on the San Bernardino City Unified School District board, survives her husband. She and Chuck Obershaw had five children, one of whom died in 1994.


Two memorial services are scheduled for Thursday, May 30. An 11 a.m. graveside service will be held at Mountain View Cemetery, 570 E. Highland Ave., San Bernardino, followed by a 2 p.m. memorial service at the First Presbyterian Church of San Bernardino at 1900 N. D St., San Bernardino.


In lieu of flowers, the Obershaw family would appreciate donations in support of Cal State San Bernardino, David Obershaw said.