Thursday, January 28, 2016

Remembering Sam Powell

We learned this week that our dear friend, and High Point High School Class of 1963 alumnus, Sam Powell, died suddenly in connection with the big snow storm in Maryland.

Sam was one of the guys who worked at Beltsville Shell.  He lived on 43rd Avenue just down the street from Charlie Hopkins and near Mr. Herndon, the neighbor with the antique Fords.  He escorted my sister, Barbara (class of 64), to two senior proms at High Point -- his and hers!  Sam was a musician and probably the smartest one of our crowd.  He graduated from Maryland U with a degree in music.

Sam was originally a Pontiac guy.  He owned a beautiful 1957 Pontiac convertible.  Charlie was helping Sam soup it up and together they would take the car to 75-80 Dragway to assess their progress.  I remember that car burning rubber for blocks.  Sam told me a story once about giving his younger sister a ride in the '57 and she complained about how fast he was going.  When she pointed to the speedometer reading 100+ MPH Sam told her, "Don't pay any attention to that thing --it's broken!"  His best friends during the "Burger Cruising Period" were Charlie Hopkins and Jimmy Fulcher.

After a while Sam switched from Pontiacs to MoPars, and today most people associate Sam with his Slant-6 Dodge Dart.  He modified the engine by creating a unique fuel injection system.   When I was trying to decide which FI unit to put on Nan's 56 Sam provided sound advice.

Sam eventually formed and nurtured a very successful piano tuning and restoration business.  He was as meticulous with pianos as he was with cars.   Look at the beauty of the web site for Sam's business!

Sam never forgot his Beltsville roots or his childhood friends.  He contacted me right after BSYAWYD was published and when we started up the Beltsville Shell Reunions, Sam made it to the third one in 2004 and he faithfully participated in nearly all of them ever since (you will find Sam on many of the reunion photos, always smiling).  And he was very involved in the Methodist Church a fact that many friends have mentioned when remembering Sam in recent days.

The 2004 Reunion was Sam's opportunity to reunite with Charlie Hopkins.  Not long afterward Sam wrote me a touching tribute to Charlie explaining what a good friend Charlie had been to him.  Sam was like that -- sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful.

My favorite memory of Sam in recent years was the 2005 BSYAWYD Reunion -- actually the day after, when a few of us returned to the scene of so many happy times at 75-80 Dragway.  Frank Bollinger, Sonny Boteler, Nace DeLauter, Bill Goodwin, Sam and I made the pilgrimage to Monrovia Maryland to relive some great memories.  I think Sam's favorite car that day was a Hemi Dart driven by a teenager, whose pit crew was his Mom and Dad.  It was really special.

Sam and I exchanged many email correspondences covering a wide variety of topics reflecting his broad interests.  We talked about cars, classical music, high school memories, family, friendships, being in business for yourself, and life in general.  He once told me, "We still live in a house with a rather large yard. . .  We are all healthy, and enjoying life. I think the key to longevity at this point is to stay busy and interested in something."

Here is how Sam's daughter, Christine, told us of his passing:

Dear friends and loved ones, this is Christine, Sam's daughter. I am writing to let everyone know that Sam passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. He had the biggest heart of anyone we know, and it was filled with love for all of you. However, his heart couldn't handle all of the snow shoveling and work he was doing in the yard, and it gave out on him yesterday. Thanks to all of you for being a part of my dad's life. He was happy and full of life and loved all of you with all of his heart. I'm sure he is making music in heaven just as he always did for all of us here on earth.

Yes, he loved all of us, and we loved him just as much.

P.S. From Thomas Payne, of the Restored 1930's Auto Shop Garage Gallery

Thank you Cary for the information on Sam. I took the liberty of re-posing your information on my Garage Journal web site. 

Restored 1930's Auto Shop - Page 457 - The Garage Journal Board


  1. Cary,
    Thank you for the heartfelt memories of Sam. He was definitely a very nice guy, one of the good ones.

  2. i will sure miss Sam i am a mopar guy just like him and he was going to help me set up a ford 9 inch rear on my 1963 dart i am on my own now
    Sam will save a place for me in heaven i will see him again