Samuel George Newcom of Redding, CA, passed away Feb. 1, 2016 at the age of 98.
Sam was born, Aug. 10, 1917 on his parent’s farm north of Deloit, Iowa. He was of English (father Samuel Joseph Newcom) and German (mother Della Marie Kropf Newcom) descent. Sam spent his childhood going to school and working on the Boyer River Valley family farm – land purchased from the railroad by members of the extended Newcom family when they fled the Civil War strife in the border state Missouri. It was rumored that a Newcom farm house was the hide-out of their former Missouri neighbors, Frank and Jesse James, following the failed Northfield, MN bank robbery.
Sam graduated from Denison, IA High School in 1935 and after one year as a Chemistry Major at Iowa State (Ames), he formed “Sammy Newcom and His Swing Band,” playing dances in Deloit, Denison, Arion, Vale, and other Iowa communities. At one point, the band leader and accordion player, Lawrence Welk, asked Sam to sit in as a backup accordion player for a performance in Schleswig, Iowa.
Sam returned to college, this time Simpson College in Indianola, IA, as a Mathematics Major and Music Minor (accordion, French horn and banjo). After one year at Simpson, he met a new freshman, Grethel Joy Conklin, from Griswold, IA, following an accordion performance at the Freshman orientation, and the two began a lifetime romance. Grethel later recalled her sorority sisters complementing Sam as, “the best dancer in the whole school!” Sam graduated in 1940 and became the band director and math teacher in Little Rock, IA, and registered for the draft. Sam and Grethel were married at her parents’ Iowa farm on June 1, 1941 in a double wedding with Grethel’s sister, Cletis, who married Clair Wilson. Both Grethel and Sam enjoyed dancing and playing bridge in their spare time.
After two months teaching, Sam was drafted into the U.S. Army on November 12, 1941. Sam earned the rank of Staff Sargent and directed a survey unit for a field artillery battalion assigned to the 101st Airborne. Sam assembled for the D-Day invasion in Liverpool, England, landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, and earned four battle stars including the Battle of the Bulge, Aachen, and Cologne, Germany. He helped liberate the Buchenwald Death Camp and protected construction of the Rhine River Bridge into Cologne. Following Germany’s surrender, Sam returned to Paris to supervise assignments to the South Pacific and with Japan’s surrender, Sam was discharged in Chicago on November 14, 1945.
Sam returned to Griswold as the high school band director and mathematics teacher while earning a Masters of Science in Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
In 1951, he moved with his wife and their three children to Omaha, NE. There, he became employed by the Douglas County Health Department inspecting restaurants before eventually becoming responsible for maintaining sanitation at 200 dairy farms. He assisted his brother-in-law Clair in developing the first bulk milk storage and transportation system in Iowa. He was offered a full scholarship and stipend to attend the University of California at Berkeley where he obtained a Masters of Public Health in June 1959.
The family loved Berkeley and both Grethel and Sam eventually became teachers in the Berkeley public school system. Sam began as a math teacher at Berkeley High School and became Chairman of the Mathematics Department and the Berkeley School District Mathematics Coordinator.
Sam and Grethel retired from teaching and moved to Redding, CA in 1980 to be near family. They worked with their son George and his wife Anne in the management of Motel 99 – a popular tourist stop along Hwy. 99 for Lake Shasta visitors prior to the construction of I-5. Sam continued to manage the two family farms in Iowa, and owned numerous rental properties throughout his life. He was an excellent carpenter and painter. Sam also was an avid golfer and, at one time, a bowling league champion.
In addition, Sam and Grethel were actively involved with First United Methodist Church in Redding, and traveled extensively, including a group visit with the Grandmothers for Peace to the former Soviet Union and joining the first group of Americans to visit China following the Nixon/Kissinger negotiations.
Sam was preceded in death by his wife, Grethel Joy, on April 7, 2009, and his son, George Emerson on July 1, 2010. Sam is survived by his son, Samuel Ralph (Janis) Newcom of Atlanta, GA, daughter, Joy Louise (Russell) Wade of Redding, CA, daughter-in-law, Anne McAllis Newcom of Redding, CA; grandchildren Samuel Joshua (Jill) Newcom of Sacramento, CA, Maria Luelle Lerda of Redding, CA, Cassandra Lynn (Walter) Carr of Bethesda, MD, Heather Louise Newcom of Pleasanton, CA, Sarah Roena Lerda of Chico, CA, and Seth Emerson (Kristen) Newcom of Brooklyn, NY; and 10 great-grandchildren.
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 in Redding, CA. A graveside service will be at 2 p.m. at Redding Memorial Park followed by a memorial service at First United Methodist Church in Redding at 3 p.m. and a reception at 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First United Methodist Church in Redding.
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