I walked into my classroom Thursday morning and the first student I encountered asked, “Mr. Schmidli, did you hear about the old guy who made us laugh?’. One simple question sums up a great Big Red.
Sam Burkhart passed away Wednesday and leaves behind a legacy that is unmatched in Big Reds’ history. Any Big Red from the ages of 8 to 80 has a Sam story. He had the best energy of any human I’ve ever met. His ability to connect with children was something to behold. I could go on and on with more platitudes but I asked a few of my peers to share their thoughts and feelings as a tribute to Sam. The phrase is often overused but in this case it fits. There will never be another Sam.
Chris Arno – The first time I recall meeting Sam was when I was in the 5th grade. He helped with our basketball team at Key Ridge School. He was like our own Harlem Globetrotter. He would dribble around everywhere and shoot crazy shots. I can remember him sitting on the ground from various spots, shooting the ball, and making the baskets. He would bounce the ball off the floor from pretty much anywhere and make the shots. He made it fun while also teaching us a lot about basketball. He was definitely a positive influence early in my life and had an impact on me becoming a teacher and coach without even knowing it. Fast forward to over 30 plus years later and I watched him bring smiles to the faces of my wife, Ann, and kids Hunter, Tylar, and Gage as they were involved in high school sports and cheering.
When certain people from Bellaire pass away, a little piece of my heart also dies. At the same time, when one of those same people pass away, a part of my heart also glows because I had the opportunity to get to know and come in contact with them. Sam is one of those Bellaire people.
My wife, Ann, and our kids Hunter, Tylar, and Gage send many prayers and thoughts to his wife Dolores and her family. May he brighten the heavens above as he did the lives he touched every day here on earth.
Mike Sherwood – Sam was the kind of fan every school wants. He was never a fair weather fan and supported BHS athletics through good years and bad. Every time he came to an event it was with a smile on his face and a new gag to make people laugh. Sam will surely be missed.
Susan Klempa – Mr. Burkhart was a true Big Red. I loved when he came to games in his silly hats. He made us all smile and laugh. He loved the Big Reds and the Big Reds love him. There is no doubt he will still be rooting for the Big Reds in Heaven.
Mare Young – LOVED, LOVED, LOVED SAM!!! He was a true Big Red in every sense of the word. Always a true supporter and everyone looked forward to running into him at the games. He always had a huge smile (ornery) on his face as he shook your hand (usually with something fake or something that buzzed or wasn’t truly attached.) I will always remember him and I cherish those memories. My heart goes out to his family. Many prayers.
Kaye Sechrest – Sam was a wonderful man. He was always smiling and happy. He would attend every sporting event he could. Sam didn’t care if it was girls or boys, he was there. He was a true Big Red. I remember when Alyson and Kayla brought him in to speak to my (their) class about his life experiences, especially in the Navy. The students loved it. No matter where I was if Sam saw me, he had a kind word. Sam enjoyed life. My thoughts are with his wife and family. May he rest in eternal peace.
Tracy Badia – Yesterday was a sad day for The Big Reds as we lost one of our biggest fans. Sam was always such a bright, positive light. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body. If he was near you at a sporting event he would keep you on your toes and have you looking over your shoulder. There’s no doubt that he’ll be cheering for the Big Reds from Heaven. Love & Prayers for his Family. May we all learn from Sam… Be kind and have some fun.
Sheri McAninch – Sam is truly a Big Reds Legend. Smiles came across everyone’s faces when he walked into a gym or the football games. He always had a joke or something to make you laugh. But the kids were his heart. He loved them and they loved him. Generations of Big Reds students knew “Sam the Man.” Watching him with them was the best. I hope he wore his basketball net hat to the Pearly Gates, and got St. Peter to fall for the fake hand. Sam will be missed tremendously. Our prayers go out to the family.
Ellen Johnson – Sam and his hats brought lots of smiles to my kids and to Big Reds of all ages! He will be missed by many!!
Ed Street – Sam was my seventh grade basketball coach at Key Ridge. Wonderful, caring man.
Nathan Steele – Every time I saw Sam, I couldn’t help but smile. He always had so much joy. I loved when Sam would give us high-fives during warm-ups of basketball games. It always got me even more pumped up about the game knowing we had someone like Sam who supported our team and loved the Big Reds.
Stephanie Pramik – A man who was always had a smile,laughter and funny hats will always be remembered as a kind and gentle soul. Rest in Peace Sweet Sam!
Belinda Vasey – Sam will truly be missed by so many. Kids and adults will miss his hats, balloon animals, and his Big Reds spirit.
Michelle Weyrick – Sam will be missed by many. He always brought a smile to faces of the youth of Bellaire with all his tricks and balloon shapes. Lots of love and prayers to the family.