In his song “Young at Heart,” Frank Sinatra sings, “And if you should survive to a hundred and five / Look at all you’ll derive out of bein’ alive / And here is the best part, you have a head start / If you are among the very young at heart.”
Ten years ago, then-95-year-old Sam Sachs, ’36, listened to that song and was inspired to set a goal: he would live to be 105. “That was an encouragement for me,” Sam said. “And by golly, I did make it 10 more years.” On April 26, 2020, Sam turned 105 in grand fashion – though his birthday celebration didn’t exactly go as planned.
Ivonne Meader, owner and administrator of Mom & Dad’s House, the retirement home where Sam lives in Lakewood, California, had planned a big party to mark Sam’s 105th birthday. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced Ivonne to change course. In the spirit of going virtual, she took to social media. A video featuring Sam, a proud U.S. Army veteran adorned in his uniform asking for cards was shared on Mom & Dad’s House’s Facebook page. It went viral.
Local and national news sources converged on Mom & Dad’s House to tell Sam’s story, neighborhood residents came together to stick 105 small American flags in the front lawn, and the City of Lakewood arranged a drive-by birthday parade on April 26, complete with fire engines, classic cars, and even a helicopter flying overhead. Lakewood’s mayor gave a speech, and a U.S. soldier sang “Happy Birthday” to Sam.
In Grand Forks, Sam was honored by American Legion Post 6 for exemplary service to the nation, and then-Mayor Mike Brown proclaimed April 26 as Sam Sachs Day.
By the time his birthday arrived, Sam already had received more than 6,000 birthday greetings. A month later, that number had grown to more than 8,000.
He is in good health, but his reading vision is beginning to fail, so Ivonne put out a call for volunteers to come to Mom & Dad’s House to read his cards to him, practicing social distancing and other guidelines to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Editor's Note: On March 14, 2022, Sam Sachs passed away from natural causes, one month before his 107th birthday.