The flag at the Grand Canyon Railway flew at half-mast on Sunday in honor of Samuel J. (Sam) Imbleau Jr., roadmaster for GCRY who died at his home in Williams on Feb 8, 2001. He was 57 years old.
“Sam was a man who enjoyed life,” said Ken Edes, Williams mayor and pastor of Canyon Chapel, who officiated at Imbleaus’ memorial service, Feb. 11 at Max and Thelma’s Restaurant. “Golf was one of his loves, so was the outdoors. His third love was the railroad.”
To celebrate Imbleau’s life the GCRY also hung a wreath on the front of the train on Sunday and released 58 balloons — one for each year of his life.
Mr. Imbleau was born to Delores and Samuel Imbleau Sr., on Feb. 27, 1943, in Duluth, Minn. He was raised in Big Falls, Minn. He served in the U.S. Air Force before beginning his career on the railroad. He worked 17 years for Burlington Northern before the railway downsized and abandoned the line in his hometown.
In 1984 he moved to Chino Valley and worked as a hotshot firefighter for three seasons. With the re-opening of the Grand Canyon Railway in 1989, he returned to his love of railroading.
“I think Burlington Northern’s loss was the Grand Canyon Railway’s gain,” said Bob LaCivita, executive vice president of GCRY. “Sam’s knowledge, strength and tireless energy were crucial to this railway.”
Mr. Imbleau was also a member of the Masons, Shriners, American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He enjoyed the outdoors, hunting, fishing and golfing.
Mr. Imbleau was preceded in death by his mother, Delores Olson, stepfather, Clarence Olson and brother Wayne Olson.
Survivors include: his wife, Linda Imbleau of Williams; children, Sammy J. Imbleau, Juanita M. Imbleau, both of Minnesota and stepson Christopher L. Davis of Williams. All the following relatives reside in Minnesota: brothers, Clarence and Karla Olson Jr., James Olson and Michael Olson; sisters, Patricia Imbleau Pritchard, Marie and Dan Duffy, Audrey and Larry Smith, Clarice and John Thompson and Laura and Butch Potter; grandchildren, Kathryn Imbleau and Patrick Boorman.
Final services and burial are Feb. 16 and will be held in Big Falls, Minn.
Memorial contributions may be made in Sam’s name to Northland Hospice, P.O. Box 997, Flagstaff, AZ 86002.
Arrangements are under the direction of Norvel Owens Mortuary of Flagstaff.