Sam & Dorothy: A Lifetime of Love
As love stories go, there are few more beautiful than Sam and Dorothy’s. Married for almost a half century, these lovebirds have gone through just about everything together. They spent a lifetime behind the scenes in the music industry. They embraced the thrill of uncertainty that comes with buying a home and starting a family. They endured the loss of loved ones. Now, they wrestle with life-threatening illness. The strain of it all caused their house to fall into disrepair until recently, when the 6 Stones Community Powered Revitalization initiative found its way to them. But long before volunteers turned out to restore their home, they knew what it meant to love and be loved.
Sam remembers every detail of his first meeting with Dorothy, from her wardrobe to the look on her face when he vowed to marry her to the way she stomped away, indignant at such a forward proposal. He remembers the timeline of their budding relationship, from the first Coke at Clown Burger to the fear of signing up for a $199 monthly house payment in August of 1970. The pair of them walked together on a beautiful, winding road for the better part of three decades.
“We both spent our life getting into the music industry as deep as we could,” Sam said. “We worked with lots of major acts and had a lot of fun. We went to the awards shows and CMA shows and things like that… We basically just had a really good time. Life was good.”
The shortlist of talent that passed through Sam and Dorothy’s life reads like an awards show roster: John Anderson, Jerry Lewis, and producer George Schlatter are just a few of the notables, scattered amongst a smattering of studio and radio station affiliates. The duo wrote and published songs for Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose and the all-time classic, Smokey and the Bandit. A picture of Elvis stands nonchalantly in Sam’s wet bar. Dorothy once threatened to wash Gene Simmons’ mouth out with soap; an exchange the KISS frontman still remembered when he was introduced, laughing, to her husband months afterward. They get along just fine now.
Despite the litany of fame in his life, Sam’s most treasured possessions are not number one songs or world-renowned friends. There are but two things at the front of his mind, day in and day out: his God and his wife. Sam begins every day with prayer and scripture. He ends every day quietly conversing with Dorothy. Sometimes, they even use words.
“We spend our days bantering with each other, in our own little way of doing that,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it to you. We have our own little things that we entertain each other with. She’s just a special person.”
So passionate is Sam’s adoration for his wife that our interview was littered with jubilant asides about his unbelievable luck in finding her. He gives thanks for Dorothy’s companionship every day: first to his God, then to his wife. It’s a simple dynamic that has resulted in an air of unobtrusive wisdom Sam would never claim. Anyone who’s met him, though, would affirm that this is a man who knows what it is to live in love and faith.
This is a man who spent a year praying that God would give him ownership of the Maverick Building in Fort Worth, laying a hand on the structure every day on his way home. At the time, he was a humble barn sweeper, cleaning out stables and running concessions in a rapidly developing city. But somehow, some way, the owner got a hold of him and offered to sell the building, then lease it back to Sam and a few friends one affordable payment at a time.
“I was a struggling songwriter and trying to get something going and Dorothy was working and trying to get something going. We weren’t in the music business, but we were trying to be,” Sam recalled. “God just handed me that building. Is that a miracle or what? Tell me you can’t believe in God when something like that happens.”
“It makes a difference in whether we can continue to live here or not. It’s just that simple.”
“It makes a difference in whether we can continue to live here or not. It’s just that simple.”
Sam and his fellow investors set up an office in the building and stayed there for several years. Over time, he would run a series of small recording studios and independent distribution companies. Toward the end of his career, he was operating a business out of the couple’s home in Euless: Preview Promo, a subscriber resource that packaged and shipped new music for small-market radio stations that major labels often overlooked. With the advent of digital music distribution, however, that endeavor eventually faded away. It was an unfortunate truth that made a difficult situation that much worse. For Sam, work was never about the money. It was about the love. His home businesses had been born out of a need for both.
“We had some good times and some success,” he said. “Unfortunately, we had a family disaster. Our son committed suicide in 1998. He took our heart with him and we pretty much quit. I know that sounds ridiculous, but we basically just quit. For the next two years, we didn’t hardly leave the house except to buy groceries. Then my wife’s health went down. First one thing, then another. Here we are.”
It was that state of disarray that led to the founding of Preview Promo, which kept the lights on and the water running for a few years while the couple recovered. When that resource was tapped, however, Sam found himself working at Home Depot. He split his time between Dorothy and that job until her health began to fail and he could no longer leave her alone. With their hospital bills rising and the home beginning to decay, Sam found himself in need of help but without the time or resources to seek it.
In the end, it was a leaky faucet that brought him to the City of Euless and, through them, 6 Stones.
“I had a stopped up drain over there in the kitchen sink. We were trying to cut off the water and the valve was stuck. It wouldn’t cut off. So I called the City of Euless,” Sam said, remembering that the workers who came to help him did more than just fix the pipe in question. “They brought back some paperwork, they had me fill it out, I gave it to them and they filed this thing for me to get some help to fix things in the house. Somehow, from that — which is not related to 6 Stones at all — they ran across Dale Turns, who is an incredible human being.”
Dale and Joyce Turns, homeowner liaisons in Euless, would prove to be some of the best friends Sam would ever have. The kind words he had for Schlitter, Simmons, and Elvis were meager acknowledgement compared to the praise Sam mounted on the Turns family. By the time a CPR team had been assembled to touch up Sam's home, he was almost overwhelmed with gratitude. He watched in awe as strangers rallied to restore a home that had been the setting for 45 years of marriage. This wasn’t just a batch of repairs to him.
“This place looked terrible before they showed up, and when they left I could be proud of it again,” Sam said. “In two days, these people — these wonderful, precious people — came out here and donated their time. [They] cleaned up my mess. I truly can’t thank them enough… It’s humbling. I think that God stepped in and just showed me what He could cause to happen.”
“I can’t imagine someone being that giving,” he continued. “The things that people have done to make our lives better — that we don’t deserve, we don’t have any reason to expect that sort of thing — without [us] asking… It’s mind-boggling. It makes a difference in whether we can continue to live here or not. It’s just that simple.”
When last we spoke to Sam, Dorothy was under surveillance in the hospital. In fact, we avoided any discussion of her situation in our video interview out of deference to his delicate emotional state. Off camera, he spoke of his wife’s health not with fear of her passing, but with trepidation about his ability to function without her at his side. We now know that he plans to take her off life support this Friday.
In Sam and Dorothy, we saw perhaps the deepest and most magnificent manifestation of love on the face of the earth. They are lifelong partners; truly deserving of the “soulmate” label, which is why it matters that their home felt like home when they were in it. For what it's worth, CPR provided them a sense of stability in the midst of their trial.
No one knows what news Friday will bring. Uncertainty is part of life, and especially part of love. For Sam and Dorothy, however, there is hope. Not because of fresh paint or a new fence, but because of Sam's stalwart faith in two things: his God and his wife. In spite of everything, he hasn't lost faith in either.
Note from the author: Dorothy passed on at 1:00am on Tuesday, March 29. The above post remains un-altered as a testament to the love Sam and Dorothy shared in this life, but it seemed unfitting to leave the story there. It's important to note that Sam responded to the loss of his wife with the same incredible faith he had always displayed, and that he went on to volunteer with us in the next CPR Blitz. The next chapter in his story has been told in a follow-up piece here on the site.
Well, I’ve known Dale & Joyce for a very long time, and believe me, the’ve always been like that. They will do anything to help people in need, but they will also help people who have no “real” needs at all (like me). Trust me, I know. So Mr. Sam’s good fortune is still with him!
We wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do without Dale. Must’ve been raised right 😉
Thanks for the love!