EMS founder honored in big way

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By Lisa King

Until he lost a valiant battle with throat cancer on Christmas Day at the age of 59, Tommy Sampson Jr. was a humble man. Though he did big things for Shelbyville--as well as the entire state--as evidenced by his pioneering achievments in emergency medical services, he never wanted to be in the limelight, family members said. But his community has not forgotten his dedication nor his many acts of kindness, large and small. So Friday afternoon, a small crowd gathered at the Stratton Center for a suprise honor for Sampson from Congressman Brett Guthrie, who had arranged for Sampson to be entered into the Congressional Record, an honor reserved for those who have made extraordinary contributions to their community. "Tommy truly exemplified what it means to help others," Guthrie told the group of family members, community officials and friends, many of whom who could be seen nodding in agreement at his words. "He dedicated his life to public service, serving as deputy sheriff, coroner and ambulance driver, and is most widely known for being a pioneer in emergency medicine as a founder and long time director of Shelby County's Emergency Medical Services. But throughout all his roles, Tommy was known for his kindness, cheerfulness and passion for helping others. The evidence of his legacy will be visible in the countless lives he touched; he will forever be appreciated and remembered by a grateful community." Sampson's wife, Beverly, and his son, Clark, accepted the document from Guthrie, as well as an American flag, folded in the time-honored tradition, in a emotion-filled moment that swept through the entire crowd. "We are very humbled and honored to accept this tribute to Tommy," Beverly Clark said. "Tommy had many talents and he used those talents to help and mentor others, not only in this community, but also throughout the state of Kentucky." Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger stepped to her side, to address the crowd. "I know the Sampson family, and I know how much this truly means, not only to them, but also to this community," he said. "We don't want his memory to ever be forgotten and we will hang this in one of our county buildings so that everyone can see it." After the presentation, there were hugs, congratulatons--and tears--all around the room. "You guys are family to me," Rothenburger told Clark Samspon, in an emotional moment after the ceremony, when family members took a few moments to talk about what the honor meant to them. "I was really happy to see someone in the state doing something like this for Tommy," said Beverly Sampson. "It is well-deserved. The thing about Tommy was that he was always in the background. He never wanted to stand out, and anything he did for anybody, he never wanted any praise for it." Sampson said her husband was such a humble person that she didn't even find out about many of the things he did to help people until he became ill, and people started talking about things he had done for them. "I'm telling you, there were just so many stories of when he had helped people, and I didn't even know it," she said. "There was a fellow that came up to me, who had worked for the ambulance service who wanted to start his own security service. He was originally from Texas, and he drove 22 hours to come to Tommy's funeral. He said if it hadn't been for Tommy encouraging him to follow his dream, he never would have done it. We heard stories like that all the time while Tommy was in Hospice." Clark Samspon, a 23-year EMS veteran, agreed that it was the little things that his father did that people will remember. "My father worked Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, Halloween, you name it, just so his employees could spend time with their families," he said. Sampson added that for his dad to receive such a high honor as to be included in the Congression Record means a lot to his family. "This is a big tribute to him," he said. Guthrie said the honor is not one that is given out lightly. "This is something that is bestowed upon people who have made a significant contribution to their communities," he said. "To actually be read into the Congressional Record--it's not commonplace." The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. The Congressional Record began publication in 1873, and is still published today. Beverly Sampson said the family did not know until the moment of the presentation what her husband's honor was to consist of. "We knew they were going to do something for him, but we did not know what," she said. "Rob [Rothenburger] only told us that it was going to be something big. Then when Mr. Guthrie started reading it and I realized what was happening, I started to cry. I did, I cried, I just couldn't help it." To view the official tribute to Thomas S. "Tommy" Sampson, entered into the Congressional Record in January, go to www.gpoaccess.gov and click on Congressional Record.