Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 30, 2019


He spent his life serving others


            Sam McGlamry died in Texas June 14. He was 92. His last two years were difficult. Medical issues. The kind that come with old age. He did not suffer alone. His daughter Pat and his husband Miles took care of him. They loved him dearly, just like his son Ernie and his wife Carolyn loved him.

            They brought his body back to Montgomery. He was born in Alabama. He wanted to be buried in Alabama. So, after the celebration of his life at Leak-Memory Funeral Home, we had a police escort to Wetumpka. There we laid Sam to rest in Pineview Cemetery.

                When I sat down with Sam’s family to plan the celebration of his life, I asked them the question I ask every grieving family: What begs to be said about Sam? They shared some good stories about the dad they had loved. But one salient sentence got my attention. They said, “Dad spent his life serving others and he always did it with a smile.” That is about as remarkable a tribute as I have ever heard children pay their father. So we explored what they meant by “serving others.”

            Sam’s service to others began on the Alabama farm where he grew up, a farm that was a family farm for over 100 years. In the early 1940’s Sam’s father, Sam McGlamry Sr., was one of the founders of the Montgomery Farmers Market. His dad’s picture still hangs there today. Sam spent his teen years helping bring and sell his family’s famous peaches and other produce from the McGlamry family farm. It was at the farmer’s market where Sam met Virginia Warren, his future wife, with whom he shared 67 years of faithful marriage.

Sam’s family helped me understand that Sam’s desire to serve others began when he was a boy. I realized it was a story they loved to tell. Sam was one of several children on a school bus when one day the regular school bus driver just pulled over and parked the bus. He told the children he was joining the Army and would not be driving the bus any more. The children sat there, stranded without a driver. That’s when Sam got up, climbed in the driver’s seat and, at age 15, and drove the bus until all the children were home safely.

The next day Sam drove the usual route, picked up all the kids and got them to school on time. Later that day Sam figured he was in big trouble when the principal called him to the office. The principal said, “Sam, I hear you drove the school bus today.” Sam said, “Yessir, they needed to get to school.” The principal said, “Well, Sam, from now on you’ve got the job of driving that school bus.” So, at 15, Sam was serving – his community and his school.

            In August, 1944, at the age of 17, Sam dropped out of school and enlisted in the Navy. From September, 1944, until June of 1946, Sam served his country aboard a ship in the South Pacific during WW II. After returning home from his service in the Navy, Sam married Virginia. Two years later God blessed them with their first child, Patricia, and in November, 1959, the Lord blessed them again with the arrival of a son, Earnest.

            Sam’s desire to serve others led him to acquire what back then was called a “service station,” located in the Forest Hills area of the Atlanta Highway. There Sam spent 30 years providing “service with a smile” for his customers. In those days at a service station you got more than gas, you got service for your car. Sam pumped gas, changed oil, fixed tires, did all kinds of repairs and cleaned windshields with much pride in the service of his customers.

            After retiring from his service station business, Sam found a retirement job he loved, working for his friends Robert and David Funderburk at Little Mountain Nursery. There, working with both plants and people, he helped customers select plants and gave them guidance for the best care of their plants. Sam loved plants and he had a green thumb.       

I seldom pick up an orange without thinking about Sam. The first time I visited in his home, he soon led me to his back yard. He wanted to show me his big orange tree and his lemon tree. I was amazed. Oranges and lemons growing beautifully in Montgomery! For several years Sam made my face light up by bringing me a basket of those delicious, sweet oranges – and sometimes a lemon or two.

            After his working days came to an end, Sam continued to serve others. Though in his eighties, Sam was still able to drive. So he would faithfully pick up members of his Sunday School Class, women who could no longer drive, and chauffer them to and from church.

            I have presided over hundreds of funerals. Each one is a sacred event. But the one for Sam last Monday was special. It is not often one has the honor of celebrating the life of a veteran of WW II who was a member of the Greatest Generation. Sixteen million Americans fought in the Second World War and less than a million are alive today. An average of 362 veterans are dying every day.

            There were not many dry eyes in the chapel when Corine Free touched our hearts by playing “America the Beautiful.” The American flag was draped over Sam’s coffin. We gave thanks for Sam’s service to his country and remembered the thousands who paid the supreme sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today.

            Sam was not a community leader. He was not a public figure. His opinions were never printed on the first page of the newspaper. But Sam was as good a man as you will ever meet. He was a “salt of the earth” Christian. He modeled how to live a humble life in the service of others. His life style reminded me of that old gospel song, “Others.” I love the refrain: “Others, Lord, yes, others, let this my motto be, help me to live for others, that I might live like Thee.”

            I drove away from that cemetery thanking the Lord for the privilege of celebrating the life of a humble man whose children could say, “Dad spent his life serving others and he always did it with a smile.” Rest in peace, Sam, until I see you again. + + +