Thank You, Sam
Mary Hunt remembers Sam Breck
by Mary Hunt
Surely Sam Breck has helped many thousands of people over his long and varied lifetime. My ex-husband, Don Hunt, and I were among the multitudes. In 1976 we started the Ann Arbor Observer.
During the preceding year I had been the newsletter editor and "West Side Neighborhood Advocate" for the little downtown revitalization group spearheaded by Ernie and Torrey Harburg, who had started the Del Rio.
Briarwood's opening had left empty gaps on Main Street. A fatal shooting at the Fleetwood had led many to fear going downtown.
I would have first met Sam while he and/or I was photographing old, unrehabbed, utterly authentic storefronts and alleys west of Main Street. Sam then did PR for Ann Arbor Bank (later NationalCity, now PNC). The bank was the Observer's first big advertiser.
Sam fed us countless story ideas and historic photos. Many involved trains and trolleys, of course! High school graduates of Webster Groves, MO, we had been Ann Arborites only since 1967. (Toledo Congressman Lud Ashley wrote us complimenting our little piece on his grandfather's Ann Arbor Railroad.)
Thanks to Sam and Wystan Stevens, we came to think a little like townies, not college transplants.
Sam inspired his son, Bob, to come up with the Observer's enduringly popular "Test of the Town," a photo quiz featuring a detail of a central Ann Arbor building.
On some sort of cosmic level there IS a Heaven.
Maybe it is the dissolution of ego, the reward for a humble and connected life, or "what happens to you when there's no you there," in the words of Juanita Solis, my Albion friend and fellow cradle Catholic.
Sam Breck, in some form, is looking down from Heaven on those of us here still on Planet Earth. His spirit and genes live on in his family, Bob and Bill, and their children. His spirit lives in his friends forever.
How much Sam has taught us, in so many arenas of life!
THANK YOU, Sam! And thanks, Bob, for your splendid idea and
Mary Hoffmann Hunt
P.S., No, our son, Samuel Henry Hunt, born in 1979, now a translator (German, Czech, and Slovak to English in Germany), was NOT named after Sam Breck - rather after two great-grandfathers, the Texas railroad stationmaster Sam Hunt and the German immigrant tailor, Henry Hoffmann, of Carrollton, Missouri, and before that of impoverished Bisterschied in the Rhineland (not far from Kaiserslautern but at least 500 feet above it, on a cold and infertile plateau).
But it didn't hurt that the name "Sam" had such positive vibes in our experienced lifetimes.
[Originally published in April, 2009.]
On April 6, 2009, Eve Silberman wrote:
Mary, thank you for writing this beautiful piece. I really didn't know Sam but it is clear he was one of the jewels of Ann Arbor! Eve Silberman