Mike "Sammy" Samuelson, an avid baseball fan and tireless community organizer, died Monday morning after battling leukemia and other ailments for several years.
Samuelson, 57, spoke to several hundred people at the Nicollet Island Pavilion Friday at an annual baseball banquet put on by his friends. He received a lifetime achievement award and was subjected to some of the heckling that he routinely dished out over the years. Former Twins Jack Morris and Tom Brunansky were among the featured speakers, as well as Twins President Dave St. Peter. But the longest ovation of the evening came for Samuelson.
As a community organizer in Minneapolis and St. Paul, he fought tirelessly for the rights and needs of the poor, the disenfranchised and people with disabilities. He also worked in housing programs and code enforcement for several cities.
In a Star Tribune column last month, friend and fellow Twins fan Julian Loscalzo told Jon Tevlin that Samuelson did the kind of work "where you are appreciated for a short time, then you're gone. Nobody puts up a plaque for you. He challenged the powers that be and it cost him jobs, but it came from a value system that Sammy lives by."
He was preceded in death by his father, Howard, and is survived by his wife, Kiki Sonnen; mother, Lavern Jagg; siblings Terrie Pyne, James Samuelson, Barbara Gutz and David Samuelson, as well as many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of St. Frances Cabrini, 1500 Franklin Av. SE., Mpls. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Willwerscheid Funeral Home, 1167 Grand Av., St. Paul.
Read Jon Tevlin's column about Samuelson at www.tinyurl.com/mikesamuelson.
JEFFREY W. PETERS