The Big Burn bids a cherished good-bye to a long time friend
Every year during the spring in the early morning light when the western skies give up their cherished “champagne powder” a sacred dance begins. For those who are up early experience the exhilarating view of the melding of nature’s finest powder and the expert skier waist deep in undisturbed crystals, methodically carving through the snow-scape; frozen in time, the skiers tracks record a past of skiing at its ultimate synchronicity: it takes balance, timing, the ability to float without seeing the tips of ones skis, yet being present to the hidden slope underneath and maintaining just the right speed to gain the cooperation of snow, gravity, and…time.
Several days ago, a gifted skier of the Green Mountains of Vermont, British Columbia, Europe, the Rockies and Snowmass has hung up his skis for the final time. Some who have known Dr. Sam Hemley (also known as Doc, or Bob), a forty three year resident of Snowmass might say “yes, I saw him ski, poetry in motion, reverse shoulder, knees bent and so forth” but for those old enough to remember Stein Erickson, that’s all one needed for reference; when Sam skied people watched. Many skiers will still remember Sam floating down the Big Burn; the year or equipment didn’t matter, nor did the conditions. Whether it was the “blue ice” of Mad River in Vermont or the “Sierra Cement” out West it didn’t matter. When it came to sun, powder and floating, however, the Big Burn was home. Skiing was an important part of his family life. Upon Sam’s retirement in 1987 Snowmass became home. His active life of skiing, tennis, fly fishing, clay pigeon shooting and travel allowed his passion for medicine to continue to flourish. As those who knew him found out, he was a walking encyclopedia of all the latest medical information and he was pleased to share his knowledge on a myriad of other topics as well.
Those who met Sam might be surprised to learn that he was from Brooklyn, New York, entered Columbia College within Columbia University in New York City at the age of 15. He joined the cross country track team, won multiple gold metals and set a long distance record at Annapolis. During one of his races he had the great pleasure of seeing Albert Einstein and later in the day, speaking with Albert about his pipe and the type of tobacco he enjoyed, Bulkan Sobranie, in a meerschaum pipe. Sam entered New York University School of Medicine, and upon graduation, completed a two year rotating Internship at Kings’ County Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, and a three year residency at King’s County Hospital. He was the youngest recipient of passage of the National Medical Board Certification. As with many achievements in Sam’s career once the military let it be known that medical personnel were desperately needed for the Korean Conflict, he joined the US Army Far Eastern Command (FECOM), in Hokkaido, Japan as Director of Radiology. While serving with valor under General Meade, he was rewarded with a field promotion to Captain in a combat zone. Although his military career included a number of harrowing secret assignments he was also Island Medical Inspector and placed in charge of testing and maintaining the purity of the large Japanese brewery facilities used by American troops. To be certain the facilities had not been contaminated by enemy forces Sam was required to closely monitor the products.
Sam led a distinguished career as a radiologist in various venues including lecturing at Albert Einstein School of Medicine, the American College of Surgery, and at other locations throughout the world. His numerous published research papers led to advances in the field of radiology. Following his years as Director of Radiology at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City, he managed the Greenwich Radiologic Group in Greenwich, Connecticut, and later was appointed to be Director of Medicine for a large suburban healthcare plan in White Plains, New York, while continuing to teach residents and fellows at St. Luke’s.
Upon commencing his active retirement in Snowmass in 1987 it became apparent to Sam that “the cog that drove the wheel” in town were the “forgotten heroes” of the police and fire departments and he aimed to do what he could to improve the nature of life in the community. Therefore, he dove into a 16 year stint as one of the Directors on the Board of Snowmass Water and Sanitation where her sought improvements for better compensation for the workers and improved testing measures for the purification of the water.
He will be missed by and is survived by his wife of 43 years, Marilyn Tormey Hemley, son Robert Harold Hemley (Gail Delasho) and their children Samuel Wyatt Hemley and Matthew James Hemley of Connecticut, son, Bryan Scott Hemley of Connecticut. He was preceded in death by his sisters Brunice Blaustein (Leonard Blaustein) and Susan Redi Hemley, M.D. (Dennis Rott).
He will be missed by his two beloved border collies, Misty and Colby.
Those wishing to honor Sam’s memory, in lieu of flowers, are invited to contribute to Denver Dumb Friends League, 2080 S. Quebec Street, Denver, Colorado 80231.
There will be a gathering of friends in Snowmass Village in mid November.
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