Byrum C. Bingham will be remembered not only for opening Bingham Toyota in Clovis more than 40 years ago but also as a family man, community benefactor and avid golfer.
"He was a good old golfer and on Wednesdays he went out with his buddies, and on the weekends he went out golfing with me," said Wanda Bingham, Mr. Bingham's wife of nearly 40 years.
Mr. Bingham, 94, died in his sleep Monday in Clovis from natural causes. He leaves behind his daughter Jamie, and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Born in Muskogee, Okla., in 1917, Mr. Bingham had always loved cars and machinery, said his caregiver, Tami Arnold. He joined the Navy in his 20s, worked in a boiler room and eventually became a pilot at the start of World War II.
He retired from the Navy as a lieutenant commander in 1955. He then bought a Volkswagen dealership in Redding.
In 1970, he established Bingham Toyota, where he remained active until a few years before his death.
Mr. Bingham was a philanthropist in the Fresno region and gave generous gifts to California State University, Fresno, The Salvation Army and Hinds Hospice.
He and his wife donated $1 million to Hinds Hospice in 2008 based on his family's experience with hospice care, his wife said. That was the first time the hospice had received such a large amount in a single donation.
Arnold said that Mr. Bingham was a funny man and loved his wife deeply.
"They were so in love," Arnold said. "They would make martinis in the afternoon and they would share their day together -- there was real love there."
Wanda Bingham said she will dearly miss her husband.
"I lost my best friend and husband," she said. "My whole family is gone."
A celebration of life service will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Belmont Country Club, 8253 E. Belmont Ave.
Byrum C. Bingham
Date of birth: April 17, 1917
Date of death: March 19, 2012
Occupation: Retired car dealership owner.
Survivors: Wife Wanda, daughter Jamie, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren