We lost a good friend here at the newspaper last week. Sam DeCrease worked in the advertising department on the first floor of the Market Street side of the newspaper building but he lit up every floor.
He was a fun-loving, warm-hearted man who always had time to ask about your family even when he was feeling lousy. He was genuine about his feelings and didn't mince words when the occasion called for brutal honesty.
I never met anyone so forthright about his impending death. He spoke freely about his cancer, his treatment and worried how it affected his loved ones and friends.
Sam may have been scared yet he talked calmly when he saw the end coming. He fought very hard, enduring treatments that held no cure. He worked until the near end, a dedicated man the likes of which are hard to come by these days.
Sam and his life partner, Dan, were together for 34 years. Their dedication to one another never waned although acceptance was not automatic for them in some circles.
The many talents of Sam touched the lives of others in ways that will not soon be forgotten. He was passionate about children in need, and he worked hard to raise money for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Animal causes also touched his heart.
When the holidays came around, Sam transformed the ad department into a Christmas work of art. He created parade floats and made us all feel like kids during those holidays.
All of us held our breath on Halloween as Sam never failed to make us laugh and shake our heads at his imaginative costumes. Whether he portrayed Michael Jackson or a farm animal, he took Halloween to a new level of fun and it transcended the building. Sam was the life of the party.
His creativity away from the newspaper office was put to good use as he was one of the best wedding designers around town. His eye for style and beauty kept us all guessing how he was going to top his last or next venue.
Phyllis Sigal and I tapped Sam's talent with flowers for our kids at homecoming and prom times. He always delivered something special.
Sam had an effect on everyone he met.
Those who turned their backs on him missed out on an opportunity to see God's hand at play in a good person. Too often people are judged by the way they dress or how they speak. I'm sure that happened to Sam many times. And if it did, he did not dwell on it. I wish I was as patient and forgiving.
Today a few glasses will be raised in Sam's memory by the people who appreciated him in their lives. The toast will be for every person who makes a difference in our lives because that's what Sam would have wanted. It's the least we can do for the guy who made us smile even when it hurt.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.