Joe M. Sampson, Sr.

February 10, 1934 - October 9, 2020

Valley Hills Funeral Home

Joe M. Sampson, Sr. died in his sleep while in Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital, Yakima. His death and passing to rest occurred Friday night, October 9, 2020.

Joe was born on February 10, 1934, in Brownstown, Washington to Josephine Atkins and Alex Sampson. He was raised in White Swan, Washington and has been a lifelong resident of White Swan with his wife Theresa Sampson (Ambrose). They met early in life as children and carried their love through their marriage of over 64 years.

Joe attended White Swan High School, Yakima Valley Community College, Central Washington University, and Washington State University. Although he was just short of his degree, he emphasized the importance of education with his children and grandchildren. Through his school years he was a student athlete participating in football, basketball, and baseball. In high school (1952) he was selected to the All-Valley High School Football team and pitched in the Yakima Valley High School All Star Game. In community college he was named Honorable Mention to the All-Conference Football Team and was voted as The Most Outstanding Athlete of the Year (1953-54). Friends have shared stories of his participation in a “smoker” or two.

Joe honorably served active duty in the Army of the United States from December 12, 1956, to November 26, 1958. After Army Signal Corps Projectionist School at Fort Sam Houston, he was assigned to overseas duty with AMEDS Detachment, 75th General Hospital, 7th Army, in Bad Cannstatt Germany. At discharge, Joe and Theresa drove a VW Karmann Ghia across country from New York back to their home in White Swan.

He lived a life of service and in support of his community. In his life he had various vocations. He was a commercial fisherman of the Columbia River, worked as a Forest Control Aid, an Engineering Aid, Truck and Equipment Operator, Surveying Aid/Technician, and a cattleman. He was a Tribal Councilman of the Yakama Nation for twelve years (1971-1983) serving under three four-year terms. He served on and was chair of multiple committees of the Tribal leadership, and on several enterprise boards during his terms. He also served during this time as the Secretary of the Tribal Council and the Executive Board. As part of his duties he served as the Chairman of the Board of the American Indian National Bank, Washington, D.C.

He continued his service with communities and involvement with sports activities. He was president of the Yakama Nation Basketball Tournament Association and not only played in but worked to promote the “Big Tourney.” He was a member of the White Swan Arts and Recreation Committee who work toward alternate activities for youth and improvement of the White Swan community. He was a member of the White Swan Parish of St. Mary’s Catholic Church where he practiced his faith. Theresa his wife was able to get Joe to Mass on Sundays after years of working the farm and ranch on Sundays.

Joe was an athlete in the Indian sports community. After his playing, he shared his knowledge of sports and their benefits for children and youth when he sponsored and coached pee wee basketball teams, baseball teams, and supported the efforts of the Yakama Nation youth programs sports activities. It may have started as an interest to get his children involved but it grew to round up several young girls and boys of the reservation communities to have an opportunity to be involved in sports activities. He was one of the biggest fans of the White Swan Cougars and his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

One of his favorite things to do was to trout fish at Mount Adams Lake, and camp in “the mountains” of the Yakama Reservation. He enjoyed the outdoors, and sporting events especially baseball and boxing.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers: Levi Sampson, Eddie Sampson, Ralph Sampson; and sisters: Jane Sampson, Aletha Sampson Briseno. He is survived by sisters: Alta Sanchey and Marie Suttlerlict (Gene), and brother: Melvin R. Sampson (Betty).

Joe is survived by his wife Theresa A. Sampson, their children: Joe M. Sampson, Jr., Wenona M. Wallahee (Timothy), Jon M. Sampson (Angelina), Jay M. Sampson (Darlene), Janine M. Sammaripa (Lonnie), and Marcos Mendoza (Odulia), and their grandchildren (14) and great-grandchildren (18).

Thank you to those who have provided care for him in the past few years: Yakama Indian Health Center, Toppenish Community Hospital, Virginia Mason Memorial, and Willow Springs. Thank you to all family members, relatives, and friends for their thoughts and prayers, offers of support and demonstrations of respect.

When it is safer to do so, the family plans to have a more public memorial event in his honor. Arrangements have been more private in nature to take precautions due to the COVID pandemic.