Rockford’s long time resident, Sam Gayman, passed away on March 7, 2021 from natural causes. He was 94. Sam was born in Michigan and moved to Rockford as child. His mother raised him and his brother Chet on Post Avenue after the loss of his father at an early age. He attended P.R. Walker grade school, Roosevelt Jr. High and West High. After graduation, Sam worked on Dr. Maurice Rogers’ farm on Spring Brook Road long before the farm and the land became Rock Valley College. It was during this time on the farm that Sam developed his passion for agriculture. He went to the University of Wisconsin-Superior, earned his Bachelor degree in Animal Husbandry and then returned to Rockford where he met his future wife Esther.
Sam’s marriage to Esther led to a large family. They lived in small farm communities for many years before returning to Rockford. Esther and Sam divorced in 1967, but remained in close contact. Although the children were initially separated following the divorce, Sam made the decision that all of his children needed to be together and took on the colossal job of raising the five children on his own. Yet, every Saturday Sam would prepare a full feast for the entire clan which included Esther and her son James. Holidays were shared under one roof as well. Sam’s children treasured him and felt grateful that he was their father.
Sam wore many hats throughout his career. His jobs included managing a hydroponic tomato operation – one of the first in the area; a farm seed salesman that had him racking up hundreds of thousands of miles on his vehicles; a farm management business that led to moving to a farm north of Rockford where he lived out his dream until the limits of old age told him it was time to move back into town.
Sam developed so many long term relationships over the years that there is not enough space to name them all. However, his lifelong friendship withMarshall Nelson was the strongest of all. Practical jokes and much laughter were always present when Sam and Marshall were together. The story of tossing firecrackers behind the back of the person who was teed up for a golf swing was mentioned many a times. The annual weekends at Marshall’s cabin in Wisconsin were always filled with good fun includingmutual hijinks between the two. It was heartwarming to witness Sam and Marshall’s friendship become one for the ages.
Sam had the great gift of storytelling. He could spin a yarn about an instance he was involved in that had the listener riveted. One would chuckle as he always would share the humorous side of the event. He was at ease with others, often befriending those he interacted with regularly, like the clerk at the local grocery store, the attendant working at the dry cleaners, the breakfast “group” at the River’s Edge or the owner of a local restaurant who would coax Sam into a Sunday morning Bloody Mary – for just one; wink, wink. He is remembered for all of the impromptu gatherings on his front porch on Camp Avenue, where he would whip up some appetizers and beverages for anyone who came by. Many of his children’s friends would cheerfully shout out ‘Sam!’ whenever they came around the house. He always had an open door policy to his home; always. Sam was loved and respected by many.
Many happy memories were made on Camp Ave. - learning how to ride a bike, mow a lawn, plant flowers, grilling, beer and the love of animals. Pets were commonplace in the Gayman household with the help of Sam. They ranged from bunnies, chameleons, parakeets, turtles, fish, gerbils tothe ever presence of cats and dogs. One of the more unusual pets was a Wood Duck named Charlie. Charlie arrived when a dentist used the promise of a duckling to coax one of Sam’s kids to stop sucking their fingers. It worked. So Sam built a small ‘coop’ under the basement stairs and brought Charlie home. Charlie was known for flying to and enjoying a good swim in the neighbor’s pool and almost flooding the bathroom when the kids would let him swim in it. Sam just laughed. Of course, when mentioning Sam and pets, it must be said that dogs – particularly liver and white Springer Spaniels – were ever constant in Sam’s life.
Sam is preceded in death by his father Clyde, mother Elizabeth, oldest daughter Jan, and more recently the sudden passing of his former wife Esther and his son David. Those who remain of the Gayman clan include his daughters, Susan McLaughlin of Oregon, Cathy of Central Oregon and Sarah Cole of Florida, Four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Sam is also survived by James Harnden, who he, by choice, considered his youngest son.
There will be no services per Sam’s wishes. He said on more than one occasion ‘No service. I don’t want to drag people out to see me off’. So instead we ask that you raise a toast to Sam and keep his warm memoriesin your hearts. Cheers Sam! You made a great difference in many people’s lives!