Sam Sachs Sitting on His Porch

Young at Heart

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.

Birthday cards, letters and signs from Sam's neighbors. 

Sam Sachs received birthday wishes from across the country.

Neighbors gathered by Sam's home after the drive by parade. 

Neighbors gathered by Sam's home after the drive-by parade.

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.