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Industry mourns innovator Ham Hamberger

By Jonathan Sweet

Sylvan "Ham" Hamberger, a long-time industry innovator and leader, passed away in Palm Desert, Calif., Friday.

Hamberger, whom various sources peg at either 86 or 89, worked for a number of companies in the industry, including Mercury Marine, Yamaha and Boston Whaler during a 40-year career. He was elected to the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Hall of Fame in 1985.

Industry leaders cited Hamberger's lasting impact on the industry following the news of his death.

"“Everyone at Yamaha is saddened to learn of the passing of Ham Hamberger, who led the Yamaha Marine Group in its formative years," Yamaha Marine President Ben Speciale said. "I am proud to have known Ham. A lot of us learned from Ham and continue to apply what he taught us.  He wasn’t just the leader of our company; he was a visionary whose influence continues in the marine industry to this day.”

Hamberger spent 22 years at Mercury Marine, where he directed many successful advertising campaigns for the company. In 1979, he left Mercury for Boston Whaler. After that stint, he joined Yamaha Motor Corporation in 1982 as division manager of Yamaha Outboards, where he led the introduction of Yamaha Outboards into the U.S. market, where it quickly gained a large share of the market.

"Ham Hamberger gave me my start, which he did for many others in the marine industry," said Yamaha Watercraft President Dean Burnett. "Ham was a mentor to me, and I learned a great deal from him.  Even after his retirement, he continued to be a confidant and a great friend. I will truly miss him and our industry owes him a great deal of gratitude for his long-term vision of growth."

In 1989, Hamberger left Yamaha to become president and CEO at Tracker Marine. After his retirement in 1994, he continued to serve as an adviser for many in the industry.

Hamberger also served the industry through a number of volunteer roles, including with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, American Boat & Yacht Council and more.

The family has asked that donations be made to the charity of your choice in Mr. Hamberger’s memory. Memorial service plans are pending. Uecker‐Witt Funeral Home 524 N Park Ave, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin is assisting the family.

7 comments

  1. Hams greatest advise to me was " Expect what you Inspect"
    RIP Ham

  2. Ham was a great guy and true gentleman. I met him during my first year or two in the business and he treated me like an old industry friend. I was just a college student making some money selling boats. He went out of his way to make you feel important, to make you feel relevant. His sense of humor and charisma was just incredible. I"m not sure they make them like Ham anymore. He was and always will be, ONE OF A KIND.
    My deepest condolences to his family and close friends.

  3. I met Ham as a guest to his house in 1978 while visiting Mercury Marine as a new dealer. No doubt in my mind his mentoring and friendship help me succeed thru nearly 40 years in the marine business and I will miss him greatly. RIP my friend.

  4. At the end of your career you can count on one had the people who really were a legend. Ham was one of them. He always saw the big picture.

  5. Ham was a coach. A f t o. And the briefcase sales talk. Was greatest salesman and coach ever!!!

  6. Ron & Jan Pierce

    We worked with Ham on many projects over the years at both Mercury and Yamaha when he introduced Yamaha into the USA at New Orleans. He was a special friend and will be missed in the industry. Our special prayers to his family.

  7. Cathy Rick-Joule

    As many have said, Ham continued to be a confidant and mentor to me long after he retired. I looked forward to our February talks prior to the opening of the Miami International Boat Show each year. He continued to stay extremely interested in what was going on and how he could help. More importantly, he always asked how he could help me. He will be missed.

    All best~

    Cathy

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