SAM DONALDSON Dec. 27, 2020
The Sam Donaldson passed away peacefully at home in Los Alamos, NM on December 27, 2020 after a brief illness resulting from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Because Sam shared the same name as the famous ABC News journalist, people would often ask if he was “The Sam Donaldson;” to which he would reply, “I am not the ABC Sam, but yes, I am The Sam Donaldson.”
The Sam Donaldson was born in Bath, Maine to Scott and Minnie Thelma Donaldson. His father was a career Navy man which led to many moves along with his sister Nancy and brother Scott. The family eventually settled near relatives in Muleshoe, Texas where Sam attended Muleshoe High School. He starred in track at Muleshoe High and set a record for pole vaulting that stood until 1981. While Sam was great at track, he would later confess to his friends at a high school reunion that he “majored in girls, track, and football … probably in that order.”
While Sam engaged in a healthy amount of rabble rousing in Muleshoe, he had the good sense to date the prettiest girl in town, Lola Mae Roark. They fell in love in high school and never looked back. Sam and Lola enjoyed 40 years of happy marriage until Lola’s courageous and dignified battle with breast cancer ended in 1996.
Sam had an analytical mind and received a BS in mathematics from Texas Tech in 1957. Upon graduation he was recruited to work at the prestigious Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Sam and Lola came on a recruiting trip to Los Alamos and loved the place, but Sam discovered that laboratory staff with a master’s degree made $60 more a month. As such, he deferred his job offer and went back to Texas Tech to get a MS degree in one year. Sam and Lola moved to Los Alamos in 1958 and remained there for the rest of their lives.
Sam and Lola started their family in one of the government-built quads near Aspen School. In 1965 they moved their daughters, Sonja and Sande, to a new house on San Juan street on Barranca Mesa. It was there that they raised their daughters and made lifelong friends with many other families on the street.
Sam was exceptionally generous and had an extraordinary work ethic and self-reliant character. In order to provide well for his family, he spent nights and weekends working as a licensed electrician and tree farmer. However, he also knew how to have fun. He took his daughters skiing in the winter and camping in the summer and was always a fierce advocate for his daughters’ equality and independence. He became an avid sailplane pilot and also loved to camp and fish.
Upon retirement from the lab, Sam discovered Elderhostel programs, through which he enjoyed more than 30 adventures in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America.
In 1985 Sam’s first grandchild, Jessika, came into the world. From that point on, he insisted on being called Grandpa Sam. With each new grandchild; Tyler, Marissa, Kailee, and Kendall, he wore that name with ever increasing pride. Friends and family far and wide affectionately referred to him as Grandpa Sam.
Sam leaves behind his brother Scott; daughter Sonja Donaldson; daughter Sande and her husband David Cremer; his beloved grandchildren Jessika Brown (Patrick), Tyler Cremer, Marissa Schmidt (Brandon), Kailee Shores (Connor), Kendall Weaver; and five great grandchildren Bruen and Ronan Brown and Blakely, Laney, and Maisy Ty Schmidt. He also leaves behind his church family at the Los Alamos Church of Christ, where he loved worshiping for more than six decades. Sande, David, and Sonja are thankful to Dr. Justin Green for the compassionate and respectful medical care he provided to Sam.
Sam will be missed, but his stories will live on. From the tale of riding a motorcycle through a movie theater in his youth, to traveling a Scandinavian railway with a bottle of wine and a dollar in his pocket in his late seventies, the sharing of a good Grandpa Sam story will bring smiles to family and friends for a long time.
Should you wish, Sam and his family would be happy with any donation to a charity of your choice in lieu of flowers.
The Sam Donaldson