Sam L. Horton, Jr., 1936-2019
On Friday, April 5, 2019, Sam Horton, loving husband and father of two sons, passed away after a year-long battle with cancer at the age of 83.
Sam was born on January 29, 1936 in Talladega, Alabama, a tiny town to this day about an hour east of Birmingham by car, to his parents Samuel L. Horton Sr. and Delta Davis Horton. His father was a stock broker and his mother was a school teacher. His early education was in the Talladega public schools, but he spent his last two years of high school at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His parents raised him to be the honest, humble, caring and hardworking man his family, friends, colleagues and countless dental patients knew, respected and loved. His father instilled in him a life-long love of hunting and fishing, a passion for the outdoors that led him to become an Eagle Scout and to take on the backbreaking work of a forest laborer in the Talladega National Forest the summer before he went dental school.
He earned his Bachelor of Science from Jacksonville State University, a Bachelor of Arts from Emory University, and is Doctor of Medical Dentistry from the University of Alabama School of Dentistry, where he met and fell in love with his first wife, Ellen Ann (Palmer) Horton.
After dental school, Sam joined the United States Air Force dental corps and moved with Ellen to Texas, where he served at Perrin Air Force Base, and Ellen gave birth to their sons Samuel L. Horton III and Robert C. Horton. After two years in the Air Force, he moved the family to Birmingham and spent two years as an associate dentist in private practice, followed by four years running his own office, where he learned that his love of dentistry did not translate into a love of running a small business. So, in 1970, the family moved to Bedford, Massachusetts where he began practicing at the Veterans Administration Hospital and spent many happy hours teaching his sons to fish and exploring New England.
In 1974, he was promoted and transferred to the VA Hospital in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where he practiced and served as director of dental services until retiring in 1997. Ever the healer, he also served as a dentist in the Army Reserves during this time. But his first retirement didn’t last long because he began working four days a week for his good friend and fishing buddy Phil Levinson at the VA hospital in Perry Point, Maryland until 2005.
After Ellen passed away in 2008, Sam had the good fortune to fall in love again with a long-time family friend, Sonny Reeder, and they married in 2010, at which point he somehow convinced Sonny to go fly fishing with him in Montana every fall, sometimes in freezing rain and snow. He enjoyed being part of Sonny’s extended family, taught his grandson, Matt Horton, how to shoot and fish, and proudly watched him grow to become a senior at Widener University.
Sam was a longtime member of Trout Unlimited, West Caln Sportsmen’s Club, the NRA and Delta Tau Delta fraternity. And his religious affiliation is United Methodist, most recently worshiping and serving as a trustee at the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Narvon.
No one knows where Sam gained his dry sense of humor, or is inexplicable delight in the worst possible puns, but sharing those laughs and groans was one of the many ways he made the world a better place. On campus at the VA hospital, everywhere he went he was greeted with smiles and thanks from his patients. He shared his passion for the outdoors with his sons and the many hunters and fly fishing friends he made over his many years with us. He will be missed and fondly remembered.
Sam is survived by his wife Sonny, his sons Sam and Robert, and his grandson Matthew Horton. The family will hold a memorial service and celebration of his life on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 8:30 AM at the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, 753 Mt Zion Rd, Narvon, PA 17555. Cards may be sent to Sonny and Sam’s extended family c/o Mt. Zion UMC. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate a donation in any amount to the American Cancer Society (https://www.cancer.org/) or Trout Unlimited (www.tu.org).