Alyce M. Turner-Herndon
June 9, 2007
Alyce M. Turner-Herndon, 63
Bullhead City, Arizona
Formerly of St. Cloud, Minnesota Alyce, the beloved wife of James B. (Jim) Herndon passed away peacefully with her loving husband and several family members at her bedside on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas, NV.
Mass of Christian Burial will be at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 15, 2007 at St. John Cantius Catholic Church in St. Cloud. Reverend Marvin Enneking will officiate.
Interment will be in Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud.
Friends may call between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. (TODAY) on Thursday and after 11:30 a.m. on Friday at the Daniel Funeral Home in St. Cloud. Parish prayers will be at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday at the funeral home.
Alyce was born on September 27, 1943 in St. Cloud, Minnesota to Elwin and Merlin (Peschl) Turner. She grew up and lived most of her working life in St. Cloud. She met Jim Herndon, married and moved to Bullhead, AZ in 2001.
The love in Alyce’s life was family and friends who brought her joy and happiness. Her favorite pastime was cooking, with her unique culinary ability, it pleasured her to create each family members favorite (Secret Recipe).
Traveling with Jim, her best friend, husband and soul mate helped Alyce realize Hopes, Dreams and Prayers can and did come true.
Alyce is survived by her husband, Jim of Bullhead City, AZ; children, Richard Depa (Maria) of Chicago, IL, Scott Depa (Lynn) of Upsala, Joseph Depa (Georgia) of St. Cloud, John Depa (Laurie) of Sartell, Michelle Depa of Madison, WI, Debbie Siegel of Little Falls, Wanda Saul (Ron) of Redmond, WA, Bonnie Herndon of St. Cloud and Charles Herndon (Kayla) of Mustang, OK; 14 grandchildren; two great grandchildren; brothers, John Turner (Rayo) of St. Cloud, Elwin (Junior) Turner (Koren) of Sherburn; sisters, Chrysanne Turner of Eden Prairie, Marlys Turner of Cold Spring, Kathryn Kern (Kenneth) of Moorhead, Susan Hayden (Russell) of Chicago, IL, Nancy Turner of St. Cloud, LaDonna McDowall (Michael) of Becker; brother-inlaw, Gerald Kieke of St. Cloud.
She was preceded in death by her parents and sister, Mary Kieke.
James Marlow Ackerman
Feb. 02, 2001
Not long after they started dating, Jim Ackerman told Betsye Green that he had three goals in life: to become a husband, a father and a judge.
In 1987 he attained his first two goals, marrying Green in January and becoming a father in November. Early last year he achieved his third goal.
"He was so excited when he got the call from Gov. (Jane) Hull (announcing his appointment)," Betsye said. But only weeks after his investiture on the Arizona Court of Appeals, Ackerman was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
The Honorable James Marlow Ackerman died Jan. 16 after a 10-month struggle with the disease. The longtime Phoenix resident was 49.
"What I remember most about Jim is his integrity and strength of character," said Phoenix attorney and longtime friend Dick Onsanger, who met Ackerman in law school. "It was sufficient reason for Jim to do something just because it was the right thing to do."
Though thoughtful and serious, Ackerman was a good-natured bear of a man whose frequent bursts of laughter could be heard several chambers away, said E.G. "Ted" Noyes, Jr., chief justice of the Arizona Court of Appeals, adding that Ackerman was noted for his objectivity, fairness and his willingness to work.
Ackerman was born in Lincoln, Neb., but grew up in Phoenix, where he attended Kachina Elementary School and Arcadia High School.
After graduating in 1970, he enrolled at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, where his parents had gone to school. Bright, but not terribly motivated, Ackerman dropped out during his freshman year, returned to Phoenix and opened a commercial and residential painting business with his high school buddy, Bill Riley. But after a miscalculation on a bid earned them only $300 for three weeks' work, Ackerman decided to look for a new line of work.
Inspired by his Uncle Jim, an attorney in Nebraska, Ackerman decided to go to law school. First, though, he finished his undergraduate studies at Arizona State University, earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated summa cum laude in 1979 and won a full scholarship to ASU's law school.
Again he excelled, graduating magna cum laude in 1982. He was the executive editor of the ASU Law Journal and was named "Outstanding Graduate." Afterward he clerked for federal Judge William Canby on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"He often said that the best job he ever had," Betsye said. "He loved the research and the writing and solving difficult legal problems. And Judge Canby taught him that every case is an important case. That was something he always remembered."
His clerkship over, Ackerman joined the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, recruited by partner Jon Kyl, now a U.S. senator.
"Jim was a great appellate lawyer," Kyl said. "Very cerebral. More than that, he was a solid man of quiet excellence. What you saw was what he was."
Ackerman met Betsye on a blind date at a Trivial Pursuit party in 1984. They dated off and on for a couple years, lunching together downtown, or attending football and baseball games at ASU.
Ackerman was a voracious reader who especially enjoyed mysteries and science fiction. He also was a history buff with a particular interest in the Civil War.
With his kids, he formed a band, The Wild Apostrophe's, and with Ackerman on the saxophone, son Tom on the clarinet and daughter Jill on the trumpet, they belted out old rock classics like Marianne ("All day, all night, Marianne").
Ackerman was also a talented painter who regularly took his watercolors with him on vacations. He remained a devoted ASU fan, holding season football tickets for years.
He and his son both enjoyed learning about airplanes and pored over aviation encyclopedias together. They also built and flew radio-controlled airplanes near Cave Creek.
Ackerman was a huge fan of cartoonist Bill Watterson and spent hours chuckling over his Calvin and Hobbes books.
One of his favorite pastimes was riding bikes with his family, stopping occasionally to skip rocks in the canals.
All his life Ackerman loved Mexican food and greatly enjoyed dining with colleagues at the Matador Restaurant in downtown Phoenix.
"And," Betsye said, "he made great margaritas, the result of many years of practice and tasting."
Ackerman is survived by his wife, Betsye, children Tom and Jill, all of Phoenix; parents Charles and Martha Ackerman of Paradise Valley; brothers Steve Ackerman and his wife, Trish Turpin, of Scottsdale, and Alan Ackerman of Redwood City, Calif.
Edith Litchfield Denny
Jan. 31, 2001
The rain slowed just enough to allow about 200 to honor the memory of Edith Litchfield Denny at Rancho La Loma's outdoor amphitheater, her home and a place where the community had gathered so often in happier times.
As the wind rustled the palms, oleanders and pines, mourners were able to remember Edith Denny as they knew her: wife, mother, friend, patron and singer, pianist, poet and painter.
"We have to believe Edith didn't want us fussing over her," Rae McMillan said about the gloomy weather.
McMillan served on several volunteer boards with Denny, who was her close friend and the daughter of Litchfield Park's founder.
Denny died Jan. 23 after a five-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
She and her husband, A. Wallace Denny, two years ago donated the 352-acre ranch to Sun Health Foundation for a regional hospital and medical campus.
"This wasn't done to make a statement, but it came naturally," Pamela Meyerhoffer of Sun Health Foundation said. "She saw a need, so she tried to meet that. She never tried to get recognition. She would say, 'I should be doing this. What are you thanking me for?' "
The strong-willed and modest woman didn't tell many of her illness, which didn't slow her down until last month, her husband said.
Denny was born in Akron, Ohio, on March 21, 1910, and traveled nearly every year to Rancho La Loma. At least part of her first trip in about 1920 was made in a wagon, because the Agua Fria River had flooded. Her father, Paul W. Litchfield, built the ranch nearly 90 years ago overlooking fields of cotton he would harvest for his company, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
She was in her second year at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and already an accomplished pianist when she met A. Wallace, four years her senior.
As the times required, she gave it all up in 1930 to marry "Wally," who would become vice president of the Goodyear Canadian division.
"I diverted her, much to her parents' dismay," her husband said. "It was probably an unfair thing for me to enter the picture for someone so talented."
Others who knew the bride would disagree that she slowed down.
Denny overcame her fear of flying so she could spend more time with her husband, whose pilot's license was signed by Orville Wright. She became an instrument-rated flier who could land on the ground or in the sea piloting a prop plane or a twin engine. She was still flying at 80.
During her 40 years in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, she promoted opportunities for women pilots worldwide.
And when she moved here in 1978, it wasn't to sit back in retirement. She became a benefactor to the arts, libraries and hospitals.
"We have such a love for this place," Wally said, trying to deflect the attention the same way his wife did. "We were people of the community, just friends."
The day before Thanksgiving, Marcie Ellis, executive director of the West Valley Fine Arts Council, visited Denny at home.
"She wanted to make a gift to the arts council," Ellis said. "I was saying to her, 'What are you doing for Thanksgiving?' She looked at me and said 'This is my Thanksgiving. This is what I'm thankful for and this is how I show my appreciation.' That shows you just a little bit about what kind of person she was. Her spirit will be here forever with the kinds of things she helped build in the community."
Donald Willis Knotts
Feb. 01, 2001
It all started when his wife kicked him out of the house.
After a long and successful career in insurance, Donald Knotts of Scottsdale embarked upon a brand new path.
"It was right after his retirement," said his wife, Sheila, "and I said, 'Look, I love you but you can't stay home all day.' "
With that, she handed him a help-wanted ad. The Leighton Agency was looking for distinguished-looking, older men for acting and modeling jobs. Before long the visage of the handsome, multitalented Knotts appeared on billboards and in TV commercials throughout the Valley.
Donald Willis Knotts, nephew and namesake of actor Don Knotts, died Jan. 26 of complications from a neurological disorder. The longtime Scottsdale resident was 71.
Knotts, a jovial man with a lightning wit, had a knack for making anything he did fun, said Sheila, but two things could always make him mad: lying and missing free throws.
"He'd yell at the TV every time," said son Kevin, of Phoenix. "He always said there's no excuse for missing a free throw."
Though a talented speaker and singer who enjoyed hosting parties, nothing pleased him more than sitting quietly at home, taking in the antics of his family, known to friends as the von Trapps, after the performing family in The Sound of Music.
"But then, at just the right moment, he'd interject the perfect witticism," said son Greg, of Los Angeles.
Knotts was born in Louisville, Ky. His father, Willis, was a department store manager and the family moved often, finally settling in Tucson in the early 1940s.
During the Depression his family experienced its share of economic ups and downs. During one down time, when he was only 7 or 8, Knotts received only a Mickey Mouse watch and an orange for Christmas. He made a point of telling his kids about it, year after year, until it became something of a family joke.
"Every Christmas Dad would ask us, 'Did I ever tell you about the time . . . ' and before he could finish we'd all shout 'YES!' in unison," said Knott's oldest son, Bill.
After graduating from Tucson High School in 1946, Knotts enlisted in the Army. Painfully thin just like his uncle, Knotts ate an entire bunch of bananas and drank a half gallon of milk to meet the weight requirement for recruits.
After two years in Japan, he returned to Tucson and enrolled at the University of Arizona, majoring in business.
Not long after graduating, he joined the Allstate insurance company. Within a few years, he moved into management, employing his ready wit and charismatic confidence as a motivational speaker.
In 1964 Knotts hired Sheila Kennedy as a secretary in his California office. Even though he couldn't remember her name and often addressed her as "Uh, you there . . . ," she fell hard for her new boss.
"I had such a crush on him that I got a twitch in my eye when he was around," she said. That caught his attention and Knotts, clueless to her feelings, and still not quite sure of her name, started calling her "Sarah Twitchy."
After a year or so she quit. But a chance meeting several months later at a piano bar in San Mateo led to a date and, in 1967, they married at the Little Chapel of the Flowers in Las Vegas.
Though his career was soaring, Knotts voluntarily stepped off the fast track in 1977 to spend more time with his kids.
Within months of his retirement in 1989, Knotts appeared on Valley billboards and in television commercials, promoting everything from furniture stores to Hyundai cars to Sun City West.
He landed several roles on TV, once portraying Edward Tovrea of Tovrea Castle fame in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries and playing an attorney in the TV movie Unholy Matrimony, starring Patrick Duffy.
An avid golfer, Knotts was proud he'd played the course at Pebble Beach - twice, he was quick to remind folks. He enjoyed watching golf and many other sports on television, often watching two TVs at the same time.
He appreciated the up-and-comers on the tour, but couldn't resist rooting for guys of his generation, especially Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez. They were Knotts' kind of guys - they not only excelled at their craft, but performed it with flair and uninhibited joy.
Knotts is survived by his wife, Sheila, of Scottsdale; sons Bill, of Chandler, Greg, of Los Angeles, and Kevin, of Phoenix; daughter Kathy, of San Francisco; sister Judy Werking, of Phoenix; and four grandchildren.
Services are today at 7 p.m. at Bethany Community Church, 6240 S. Price Road in Tempe.
Frances Octavia Smith (Dale Evans Rogers)
Feb. 07, 2001
LOS ANGELES - Dale Evans, the singer-actress who teamed with husband Roy Rogers in popular Westerns and co-wrote their theme song, "Happy Trails to You," died today at 88.
Evans died of congestive heart failure at her home in Apple Valley in the high desert east of Los Angeles, said Dave Koch, son-in-law of Evans' stepson, Roy "Dusty" Rogers Jr. She had suffered a heart attack in 1992 and a stroke in 1996.
Evans' son and other family members were at her side. A memorial service will be held Saturday, Koch said.
She was the "Queen of the West" to Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys." She rode her horse, Buttermilk, beside him on his celebrated palomino, Trigger.
The first movie she made with Rogers, already an established singing cowboy star, was "Cowboy and the Senorita" in 1944. They married in 1947, and together appeared in 35 movies, including such Saturday afternoon favorites as "My Pal Trigger," "Apache Rose" and "Don't Fence Me In."
When the B Western faded in the early 1950s, they began their television career. "The Roy Rogers Show" ran from 1951 to 1957; later incarnations included "The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show," 1962, and "Happy Trails Theatre," 1986-89, a show of repackaged Rogers and Evans movies on cable TV's Nashville Network.
In 1951, she co-wrote "Happy Trails," which became their theme song. She also wrote the 1955 gospel music standard "The Bible Tells Me So," with the refrain, "how do I know? the Bible tells me so."
She and Rogers recorded more than 400 songs. Their most recent album was "Many Happy Trails," recorded in Nashville in 1985.
Rogers died in July 1998 at age 86. In a statement, Evans remembered him as "a wonderful human being. What a blessing to have shared my life together with him for almost 51 years. To say I will miss him is a gross understatement. He was truly the king of the cowboys in my life."
Through her life, she was active in Christian evangelism, which she called "the most meaningful, the most enjoyable part of my life."
"She was one Hollywood personality who truly lived what she preached," said longtime friend Johnny Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood. "She was a strong supporter of the family and religion."
She wrote more than 20 books, including the best-selling "Angel Unaware," a poignant account of their daughter, Robin, the only child born to the couple. Robin, who had Down syndrome, died of complications from the mumps shortly before her second birthday in 1952.
It wasn't the couple's only taste of tragedy. Korean-born Debbie, one of the couple's adopted children, was killed with seven others in a 1964 church bus crash; the following year, their adopted son John choked to death while serving in the Army in Germany.
"In the Bible, it doesn't say you're going to get by without having troubles," Rogers once said.
The couple also adopted another daughter and raised a daughter by foster parenthood. In addition, Evans had a son by a previous marriage, and Rogers had a son and two daughters, one of them adopted, with his first wife, Arline. She had died in 1946, shortly after giving birth to Roy Jr.
Evans was born Frances Octavia Smith on Oct. 31, 1912, in Uvalde, Texas. When she was a girl her family moved to Osceola, Ark., where she attended high school.
She was working as a secretary in Chicago when she tried to launch a show business career, she recalled in the 1984 interview.
"I wanted to get a foothold in radio, but I couldn't get a job," she said. "Finally I succeeded in Memphis, then I got jobs in Louisville and Dallas before going back to Chicago."
She became Dale Evans during her brief stint in Tennessee. Initially, she used her married name, Frances Fox, and then Marian Lee. Over her protests, the station manager changed it to Dale Evans, because he felt it was "euphonious" and would roll easily from the lips of announcers.
From local radio singing jobs, she worked up to national radio, signing on in 1940 as a singer on a weekly CBS radio show "News and Rhythm." Shortly afterward, she started working in Hollywood, appearing in films such as "Orchestra Wives" and "Swing Your Partner."
She said she felt sorry from some of today's rock stars: "They are overnight successes making unbelievable amounts of money. They're like meteors, shooting up and then falling just as fast. People like Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Roy and me, we paid our dues. We've known the hard times and the good, and we appreciate what we've got."
Besides Roy Jr., she is survived by her son by her first marriage, Tom Fox; adopted daughter Dodie Sailors; foster daughter Marion Swift; stepdaughter Linda Lou Johnson; adopted stepdaughter Cheryl Barnett; 16 grandchildren; and more than 30 great-grandchildren.
Neal Whitney La Rue Jr.
April 13, 2001
Some saw Neal La Rue as an athletic intellectual. Others, an intellectual athlete.
Whatever you called him, La Rue could discuss quantum physics or the NBA draft with equal authority and enthusiasm.
Just days before his death, La Rue's mother came across a quote that seemed to summarize her son's life and philosophy: "The title of teacher is the greatest a soul can attain."
La Rue was proud to have attained that honor.
Neal Whitney La Rue Jr., a popular Deer Valley High School science teacher, died March 14 of a heart attack while skiing at the Snowbowl in Flagstaff. The longtime Glendale resident was 44.
Stacks of letters written by students, current and former, attest to La Rue's impact on their lives. His passion for knowledge and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and dig into a project made La Rue a popular teacher, even though he set high standards and made his students work for every grade point.
"That's the reason he wanted to teach high school," said his wife, Tricia. "He felt he could make the biggest difference in people's lives at that level."
La Rue was born in Austin and grew up in Wichita, Kan. As a boy he delivered papers, was active in scouting and played Little League baseball. In high school he wrestled in the 105-pound weight division.
After graduating from Wichita's East High School in 1974, La Rue, who was one-quarter Micmac, took off to Nova Scotia to research his Native American roots.
Afterward he enrolled in Grace Bible Institute in Omaha, Neb., where he was a scrappy basketball player, even though he stood only 5 feet, 7 inches tall. He graduated in 1979, and married about the same time.
After earning his teaching certificate from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, La Rue came to the Valley and started his career at Desert Sky Junior High School in Glendale.
In the mid-1980s he transferred to Deer Valley High School, where he taught general science, chemistry and physics. He also coached the freshman basketball team and reveled in his ability to outrun kids years his junior.
La Rue was a sponsor of the school's chess club and an enthusiastic player himself. He was thrilled to meet then-world champion Garry Kasparov during a 1998 exhibition at Peoria High School.
La Rue also sponsored the Environmentally Responsible Automotive Design club, which designs and builds eco-friendly vehicles. Last year the club placed third in the Tour de Sol race from New York City to Washington, D.C.
Though divorced in 1990, La Rue stayed close to his kids, taking them on long summer trips on a shoestring budget.
In 1997, he met Tricia Sanborn at a pool hall in Glendale. In lieu of a pickup line, the smooth-talking physics teacher wooed her with his talk about the cosmological redshift. It worked; he got her phone number and, after a long courtship, they married on March 18 last year.
Thrilled at the recent birth of his new son, La Rue often used Logan's height and weight as the basis for physics problems in his classes.
An avid hiker, La Rue often volunteered to chaperone school-sponsored trips to the Grand Canyon. On one such trip to Havasuapai Falls in 1998, La Rue bragged to his companions about the T-bone steaks he was going to cook for Tricia and himself that night. At their campsite, he carefully placed the steaks, sealed in watertight containers, in the stream to keep them cool. After a quick hike to the falls, they returned to find a stray dog had helped himself to their dinner.
To the vast amusement of their companions, La Rue and Tricia dined on ramen noodles that night.
La Rue is survived by his wife, Tricia, of Glendale; children Adrienne, Brent, Talon and Taylor, of Omaha and Logan, of Glendale; stepchildren Jaime and Kelsie Sanborn, of Glendale; sister Diane Simmons, of Peoria; brothers Joseph, of Peoria, James, of Filer, Idaho, and Marc, of Panama City, Fla.; father Neal Sr., of Wickenburg; mother Margaret, of Sun City; grandmother Ruby Mae, of Qulin, Mo.; and four nieces and nephews.
Antimo "Andy" Scialdone
April 23, 2001
Like millions before him, Andy Scialdone thrilled to the sight of the Statue of Liberty as he sailed into New York Harbor aboard the aptly named La Liberté in 1950. The 25-year-old Italian immigrant spoke virtually no English and carried all his belongings in one small suitcase.
Nearly 40 years later Scialdone competed for the United States at an International Bocce Tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His team finished 12th, and Scialdone was immensely proud to have represented his adopted country.
Antimo "Andy" Scialdone died April 6 of pulmonary fibrosis. The longtime Phoenix resident was 76.
Scialdone was born and raised in the village of Vitulazio, near Naples. The oldest of seven children, he grew up helping his family in their vineyards and playing bocce for fun. He also created his share of mischief, once using a dead snake to scare people in the town's piazza.
Though drafted into the Italian Army in 1943, Scialdone escaped military service when the building he was to report to was blown up. He was captured several times by the Germans after Italy surrendered to the Allies, and several times escaped, once by leaping into the Po River. Each time he was recaptured.
Impressed by the abilities, equipment and attitude of the invading Americans, Scialdone began to dream of coming to the United States.
After the war he worked on the estate of the count of Villefranche, near Paris, as a cook, gardener and butler.
In 1950, he realized his dream of coming to America. An uncle paid his fare - $237.50, which Scialdone later repaid - and, after a five-day trip, he disembarked in New York.
While working at a ball-bearing factory in New Britain, Conn., he attended night school to learn English. Lonely, he asked the teacher one day if anyone there spoke Italian or French. The teacher pointed out another student, Frances Arini.
Not long afterward, in 1951, they married and established their home in Seneca Falls, N.Y. In 1956, after completing five-year residency requirements, he and Frances became U.S. citizens.
Theirs was a happy home, where the extended family gathered on Sundays to laugh and visit over endless plates of home-cooked food. Afterward they played bocce on the backyard court Scialdone built from railroad ties.
In 1979, after 27 years at Goulds Pumps, first in the foundry and then in shipping, Scialdone retired and moved to Phoenix.
"It reminds us of Italy," he wrote in a book of memoirs. "The mountains, the air, it feels like Sicily."
Though ostensibly retired, he worked occasionally as a gardener for the Phoenix Country Club, Sunnyslope High School and the Pointe Tapatio. He was also active in the Italian-American Club, hosting activities and volunteering his skills as a translator to local hospitals, courts or visiting tour groups. In recognition of his service, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center awarded Scialdone a "Model of Mercy" certificate.
Always, he played bocce, a game similar in strategy to horseshoes, in which players roll or toss four softball-sized balls of wood or brass down a narrow court, trying to land them closest to the pallino, a smaller ball that serves as a target. Over the years he played in tournaments from Atlantic City to San Francisco, from Chicago to New Orleans, and racked up shelves full of trophies.
In the early 1990s, he was hired as a consultant for the 1993 TV movie Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage, starring Ben Gazzara. Scialdone corrected dialogue and made sure the sets accurately depicted Italy and Sicily in the old days. He had a ball, and even played a small role in the film.
No matter where he went, the gregarious Scialdone ended up knowing everyone.
"He was always smiling, telling jokes and singing," Frances said. "He never 'just did' anything, he always went all out."
Scialdone is survived by his wife, Frances, of Phoenix; daughters Lina Masino and Mary Lou Sandroni, both of Seneca Falls, N.Y., Marie Scialdone, of Phoenix, and Vita Walgurski, of Pinetop; sons John Scialdone, of Ridgefield Park, N.J., and Antimo Vincent Scialdone, of Kennesaw, Ga.; sister Louisa Pezzulo, of Vitulazio, Italy; brothers Mario and Fiore, of Albany, N.Y., and Armando and Antonio, of Seneca Falls, N.Y., and Michele, of Vitulazio; and 17 grandchildren.
George Hanna Sahhar
April 01, 2001
Maybe it was because he was born in Bethlehem, or maybe he just had a naturally generous heart.
But George Sahhar took very seriously Christ's admonition to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless.
"His dream was to win the lottery and open a homeless shelter," said his daughter, Rita Masad.
George Hanna Sahhar, a longtime Phoenix resident and passionate volunteer, died March 25 of natural causes. He was 72. For years, Sahhar volunteered at St. Mary's Food Bank, serving on the board since 1987 and as interim executive director in 1991.
"He was a very compassionate man," said Norm Gold, the food bank's senior manager of programs. "When you work in a food bank, you have to be committed to your mission and George was. He was also the most consistent board member we've ever had. He rarely missed a meeting."
The seventh of nine children, Sahhar was born and raised in Bethlehem, then part of Palestine. His father owned and ran a café where, once a week, each child was permitted to bring a friend to dine.
When he was a teen, his family moved to Jerusalem, where Sahhar graduated from Terra Santa High School in 1946. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the family moved again, to Amman, Jordan, where Sahhar joined the Jordanian Army.
After his discharge, he came to the United States and enrolled in Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, Texas, where he studied biology and theology. Later he transferred to Grand Canyon College in Phoenix.
In 1953, Sahhar's sister, Nadla, introduced him to Antoinette Sahar , whose family had come to the United States in 1949 and settled in New Jersey.
"We went to New York City on our first date," Antoinette said, "to Central Park. It truly was love at first sight. But we got lost on the way home and were very late. I remember my father told him, 'I gave you an inch and you took a mile!' "
After a three-month correspondence, they married on Dec. 26, 1953, in Jersey City and settled back in Phoenix. Later, Sahhar became an American citizen.
When children came along, he dropped out of Grand Canyon College, just short of his degree, to work full time in the grocery business.
Years later, determined to complete his degree, he returned to the college and graduated in 1971.
In addition to his volunteer work with St. Mary's, Sahhar was an active member of the Elks. A member for more than 20 years, he served as chairman of the board of trustees, treasurer and in many other positions.
One of his pet projects was the Christmas Basket Program, to ensure that needy families never went without during the holiday season.
"In his eyes, it was a sin to see someone go hungry," said Sahhar's son, Robert.
Sahhar was a devout man who knew the scriptures well. Eventually he was ordained in the Church of Gospel Ministries, said his son, Bill.
Though he was a skilled negotiator whom his children turned to to check out their deals, Sahhar was so soft-hearted that often, when he'd go to collect rent on his properties, he'd end up giving his renters a food basket, said his wife, Antoinette.
After he died, 8-year-old granddaughter Natalina Masad wrote an essay about her "sedo," or grandfather.
"Our grandpa was a good man. He helped and cared for the poor when people had no place to stay or anything to eat. He decided to help them with their problems and took care of them very well and now he's up in heaven blessing our hearts."
Sahhar is survived by his wife, Antoinette, of Phoenix; children John of Phoenix, Mary Prodromo and her husband, Peter, of Kendall Park, N.J., Rita Masad and her husband, Anwar, of Phoenix, Bill and his wife, Tracy, of Glendale, Hana of Phoenix, Carol and her husband, George, of Glendale, Robert Sahhar and his wife, Glynnda, of Phoenix, Tom Sahhar and his wife, Stacie, of Glendale; grandchildren Evan, George, Dunia, Charles, Melissa, Sami, Selwa, Matthew, Musa, Natalina, Daniel, Antoinette, Ibrahim, Noelle, John, Dominick and Sydnie; brothers Peter of Phoenix, Dr. Fred of Pasadena, Calif.; sisters Ellen Sahar of Melbourne, Australia, Alice Abuhamad and Badia Fiore of Glendora, Najla Batarseh of Glendale, and Lily Bent and Rose Gallemore of Huntington Beach.