On Saturday I attended the funeral of a person I worked with a long time ago. It was the early 1990's and we were young - this was our first "real job" and although he was an Environmental Inspector (a field position) and I was an office worker, Sam and I hung out together and became friends
He attended our wedding in 1990 and we worked together until 1992, when the company we were working for experienced a number of lay-offs, and Sam was let go. I left the company on my own and ended up starting a new environmental consulting firm with some other co-workers in late 1992. Sam ended up taking a job with the Burlington Northern Railroad and we drifted apart. I knew he had gotten married and had some children, but I didn't know much more beyond that.
On Tuesday I was shocked to learn that Sam was the victim of a freak train derailment accident in Northeast Minneapolis. We attended the funeral in Maplewood on Saturday and learned that since the time I knew him, Sam "grew up" to be an excellent husband and father.
It was apparent from the many speakers at the service that Sam loved kids; not just his children, but all children. One of the speakers at the funeral told us about Sam's quirky parenting style, which I want to pass on here. In one anecdote, his sister confided to him that she was really struggling with her children's whining. Sam told her that when his kids whine, he makes them stand on a chair and do it louder. Inevitably, this resulted in the kid not being able to do it because they were laughing too hard and the whining stopped as a result.
Another story involved a rainy-day dice game that Sam invented to help pass that time with his kids. Essentially, the game involved each kid taking a turn throwing the dice. If a kid got a 7, then (s)he had to run around the house barefoot in the rain. If a kid threw a 2, then they got to pick another kid that had to run around the house bare foot in the rain. Brilliant.
What I liked about these stories were how well they helped to fill in the blanks for me from the time I knew Sam up to the present, and how well those stories fit with my memory of the person I used to work with (Sam was the only person I knew who regularly used the word "wacky" and he had a great sense of humor). These stories showed me how he grew and matured and passed on his playfulness and his love of life to his family.
I am sure he'll be missed by many, many people but it's gratifying to see that he became so successful after I had known him, and what a positive impact he had on those around him.