A lover of life, fine food and wine, nature, animals, baseball and adventure, James Friel Sorber was born in Philadelphia in 1957 and spent most of his life living and working in Delaware, Maryland, and Martha’s Vineyard. A graduate of Concord High School (’75) and University of Delaware (’80), he found his profession and passion during a part-time college job at Goodfellows Restaurant in Newark, where he helped create Delaware’s first wine-by-the-glass bar.
Not content to simply sell and serve wine, he developed an avid interest in all aspects of all the noble grape – learning deep background about history, geography, climate, soil conditions, as well as the complexities of various grape varietals, flavor profiles and food pairings. Never satisfied with theoretical book learning, he spent much of his vacation and personal time visiting and participating in harvest and winemaking activities at wineries as close as Pennsylvania and as far away as California, Europe and South America – even traveling to Easter Island on one journey.
The highlight of his career was transforming a small, family-run “packy” on Martha’s Vineyard, (coincidentally named Jim’s Package Store) into one of the island’s premier wine and spirits retailers. He was known for treating each customer with respect and attention, whether it was a local islander stopping by after a hard day’s work for a six-pack or a luminary like John F. Kennedy, Jr. calling in an order.
The highlight of his life was becoming a father, when his son Jacob was born on Martha’s Vineyard in 1999.
He was predeceased by his parents, Donald and Alma (Friel) Sorber. He is survived by his son Jacob Friel Sorber of Denver, Colorado; his former wife and Jacob’s mother Laurie Lamont; brother David Sorber and his wife Marie; sister Christine Sorber Fennessy and her son Kevin; as well as his friend of 40 years, Alison Keeling, who was honored to spend much of his final day, March 30, at his hospital bedside, watching clips of Fawlty Towers, followed by a baseball game on TV.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Mass of Christian Burial and Interment at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, Greenville, Delaware will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Delaware Humane Association, 701 A Street, Wilmington, DE 19801 (www.delawarehumane.org) or the World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th Street N.W., PO Box 97180, Washington, DC 20090-7180 (www.worldwildlife.org).
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