BRANCH MILLS — The former owner of a well-known South China store died Saturday of complications resulting from a broken bone.

James Kempton Tobey, 89, was the founder of Tobey’s General Store and he operated it with his son from 1978 to 1982. Nearly 35 years and three owners later, the store still bears his name.

“It’s a landmark,” said his youngest daughter Jill Tobey, 55, of China. “If you’re giving directions you start with, ‘Do you know where Tobey’s store is?'”

On Sunday evening, 10 of his family members gathered at his home in Branch Mills — a village in China near the border with Palermo — to share memories of the family patriarch and plan for his services.

Grandson Ben Willoughby, 36, of South China, said Tobey, who served as selectman, road commission and on the planning board, was a fixture in the community.

He was also donated his time and money. As the owner of a construction business, Tobey helped build the Palermo youth baseball fields.

He was a 1941 graduate of Erskine Academy in South China and the school gave him its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008. He was also a trustee at the school for several years and a donor to the school.

“He was the kindest person I know,” Willoughby said.

Tobey’s oldest daughter, Noreen Golden, 63, of Oakland, said her father was a patient man who was good with children. He was a regular entrant in the Palermo Days Parade, and threw candy to children from the seat of the oldest tractor in town, his pride and joy, Golden said.

Daughter Letricia Sears, 61, of Swanzey, N.H., said Tobey would want to be remembered as a family man who took great pride in his community. He was also a big fan of horse pulls at the local fairs. Sears said Tobey was remembered during a moment of silence at the Pittston Fair on Saturday. She has heard the Windsor Fair is planning to honor him in the same fashion.

Jill Tobey said her father was outgoing and liked to strike up conversations with strangers and network.

“He would always find a common thread. It was always a treat to listen to him,” she said.

For years, Tobey would host a lobster bake every summer at his house for his whole family, which includes four children, 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, Jill said.

This year, because of Tobey’s illness, the lobster bake didn’t happen.

“But, I’m sure we’ll carry it on,” she said.

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