Originally created 03/08/06

A life of good works

You don't have to be bigger than life, or have King Kong's roar, to leave a massive footprint.

All you need is heart.

This, as much as anything, defines the lasting legacy of Samuel Hale Sibley, who died Sunday at the age of 70 after a prolonged illness.

It might please you enough that people someday remember you as fondly as they remember Sibley - "the most pleasant person you'd ever meet," says one acquaintance. "When I think of Daddy," says daughter Patricia Sims, "I always think of him spreading laughter."

"He was the most positive person I've ever dealt with in my life," says longtime friend Hamp Walker.

But Sam Sibley's humanity transcended even that high praise.

When, in his drug and alcohol counseling work at a local hospital, he realized that alcoholics in the community had nowhere to turn for the kind of forbearing assistance needed to get someone on his feet, he simply founded Hale House in 1990. It started with one house on Fifth Street downtown - and now helps up to 45 men at a time in four locations with 12-step recovery programs and even job training.

A former banker and national sales director for Augusta's E-Z-Go golf car maker, Sibley was not a spotlight chaser. He didn't seek recognition or attention for his good works. He simply did them.

And while he was easy-going in nature, he was hard-driving when it came to his cause, not only making sure Hale House was funded and functioning, but also spreading the word about overcoming alcoholism in speeches across the state.

"Sam gave the last 25 years of his life to helping other people," says Walker, who helped with Hale House from the beginning. "Sam gave people hope. You could see them brighten up.

"We've lost a real pillar."

The Bible's Good Samaritan gets a lot of attention, and for good reason; he set the example for good works. But Sam Sibley not only followed the example, he improved upon it - by helping some 10,000 addicts through the years.

With nowhere near the roar or limelight of some, Sam Sibley left a bigger mark than most. He will be sorely missed.


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