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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Samuel Leo would agree that there was no one quite like him. He was one of the most kind people around, and he would go out of his way to help others in ways both great and small. Sam was deeply devoted to his family, and he has been described as the best grandparent ever. Someone who was content in whatever life brought, he could find the blessing in absolutely everything. Life will never be the same without Sam here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
The 1930s were a time unlike any other in American history as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce while the unemployment rate soared, which left cities, communities, and families to come together in whatever way they could. Despite the trials around them, Sampson and Cecilia (Nenagous) Leo were able to shift their focus to an exciting time in their own lives as they welcomed the baby boy they named Samuel John, into their hearts and home on July 9, 1934, in Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Michigan. He was one of eight children as he was joined in his family by his siblings, Rose, Ruth, Gloria, Margaret, Richard, Robert, and Joe.
In many ways Sam was a young boy of his generation. His father worked with corduroy rubber while his mother was a homemaker. Born and raised in the Catholic faith, Sam attended St. Alphonsus Church and school. He later graduated from Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids.
Throughout his life Sam was known for his strong work ethic. He began working at G&T Distributing in 1955, just five days after the company started. As more workers were hired, he eventually moved up into new positions. Sam became foreman, and he was then promoted to supervisor. Finally, as the company continued to grow, he became the cost estimator until he retired. During his retirement years, Sam worked at Grand Rapids Golf Course, which he absolutely loved. He loved both meeting people as well as playing in golf leagues until his health no longer allowed during the last few years of his life.
Although work kept him busy, there was never anything of greater significance in Sam’s life than his loved ones. He was blessed with the births of four children, Sheree, Cindy, Sandy, and Tom, and his children were the light of Sam’s life. He enjoyed having fun with his kids, taking them places like the Detroit Zoo, Mackinac Island, and Shrine of the Pines. Later in life Sam was thrilled when his family grew to include eight grandchildren, Jeffrey, Heather, Samantha, Justin, Matt, Dirk, Melissa, and Nathan. Sam was there for all of his grandchildren’s events to matter where they were as he never missed anything. He was so proud of all their accomplishments and felt truly blessed to have been given such an enormous gift. Sam’s favorite time of the year was Christmas Eve when he celebrated with his entire family including all of his extended family members as well. Every year Sam always made a toast, claiming that this year had been better than the last. It was tradition that he stayed the night at his son’s house and attended midnight mass. More recently, Sam welcomed 15 great-grandchildren into his heart and life.
Someone who enjoyed being busy, Sam was a man of many interests. He was an avid sports fan who loved softball, bowling, and golf, and he was also a huge U of M fan and a number one Lions fan as well. It has been said that if eating was a hobby, it would have been Sam’s favorite pastime. He loved his breakfast at New Beginnings restaurant as well as Native American fry bread and chicken & dumplings. Sam was a proud member of Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. He looked so forward to the Mt Pleasant Pow Wow each summer where he would gather with family from all around the country to watch them dance or just catch up. At times, there may have been a stop by the casino, too. Although he was very thrifty, he never hesitated to help family, and Sam was still waiting for the grand prize from Publishers Clearing House! He survived three strokes over the years and was recently diagnosed with ALS. Sam was so grateful to new friends and those who helped him out during his time of need.
Vibrant, selfless, and accepting of everyone, Sam Leo brought such life to the world around him. He never had a bad word to say about anyone and lived to give of his time, talents, and resources to anyone in need. Sam cherished his family including his brothers, sisters, in-laws, and nieces and nephews, and there was nothing he cherished more than being surrounded by their love. To Sam, each day was a gift, and his mission was to make sure others enjoyed their life as much as he loved his. With his memorable laugh that can only be described as a cackle, he will never be forgotten.
LEO, Samuel J., Grand Rapids, MI, Loving father, grandfather and friend passed away at home on January 13, 2018. Sam was born July 9, 1934 in Cross Village, MI to the late Sampson and Cecilia (Nenagous) Leo. He was also preceded in death by his sisters and brothers, Richard Leo, Robert Leo, Gloria Chisholm, Margaret Pontiac; and life partner, Irene Norris. Sam was a proud member of LTBB of Odawa Indians and worked at G & T Distributing for over forty years. He loved to golf, bowl and gamble, but he especially loved his family. Sam is survived by his children, Sheree (Jeff) Gamble of Newaygo, Cindy Daley of Dorr, Sandy (Kent) Tipton of Wyoming, Tom (Jackie) Leo of Coopersville; grandchildren, Jeffrey (Tara) Gamble, Heather Arizola, Samantha (Engels) Gamble-Flores, Justin (Jen) Daley, Matt (Mandi) Daley, Dirk Tipton, Melissa (Dan) VanDenBrink, Nathan (Jocie) Leo; and 15 great grandchildren. Also surviving are his brother, Joe Leo of Grand Rapids; sisters, Rose StarChief of Manistee and Ruth (Chet) Eagleman of Lawrence, KS; several nieces and nephews; and close friend, Harry Mapes. A memorial mass will be held Friday January 19 at 11 AM at St. Alphonsus Church, 224 Carrier Street NW. Friends may visit with the family beginning at 10 AM. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Susan Mast ALS Foundation. Please visit Sam's personal web page to learn more of his life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.