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Stories of Giving

Sam Chairs: Creating a Family Legacy of Generosity

Sam Chairs

Although he has been a generous contributor to the Archdiocese of Baltimore for many years, Sam Chairs of Ellicott City, MD, tends to keep things quiet. "I like to fly under the radar," he chuckles.

The father of seven, grandfather of twenty and great-grandfather of six, Sam cherishes the simple things: family gatherings, working with his sons, volunteering in the various charities that interest him. Yet his greatest joy still springs from the love he shared with his late wife, Pat. Sam credits her with the strong family, solid faith and spirit of generosity that make up the foundation of his life.

"She was awesome," he says with affection. "Pat was the one who was big on children and education. She was always volunteering for something, and she'd get all the kids involved. In fact, when the older girls had dates, sometimes the boyfriends would arrive at our house and Pat would have everybody come and help with something up at the school."

Since Pat passed away a decade ago, Sam, now 75, has had some time to consider what to do with the legacy they built together over a lifetime. A couple of years ago, he came up with an interesting idea. "I'd been thinking about it for awhile," he says.

Sam knew he wanted to support the work of the Church that had always been so important to his wife and him. At the same time, he wanted a more formal way for his children to remain close to the organizations and charities that had shaped the life of their family. With the help of the Catholic Community Foundation, Sam decided to create The Samuel and Patricia Chairs Family Endowment Fund, and then seven additional funds in the names of each of the children and their spouses: Oldest daughter Pam will oversee The Pamella J. Norbeck Endowment Fund to benefit Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. "All seven children were born there," says Sam. "Pat had all her chemo treatments, and eventually, died there. Even after ten years, they still remember me when I go over to visit. It's just a wonderful place."

Son Sam and his wife will oversee The Samuel W. and Denise Chairs Family Fund to benefit many works of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Daughter Tammy and her husband will administer The Joseph and Ann P. Johnson Family Fund to benefit Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Ellicott City. The Chairs family has been parishioners there for 42 years, and all the children—and some of the grandchildren—have attended the parish school.

Education will also be the focus for son Tim and his wife Leslie. The Timothy J. and Leslie Chairs Family Fund will benefit St. Bernardine School (where Sam and Pat Chairs both attended as children), Seton Keough High School (where Pat, her daughters and some of the daughters-in-law and granddaughters attended), Calvert Hall College High School (Sam Chair's alma mater, Class of '49) and Cardinal Gibbons High School (where the boys attended high school).

Daughter Terry and her husband will oversee The Gerard D. and Teresa L. O'Neill Family Fund to benefit the Baltimore-Haiti Project. Sam Chairs has been supporting this effort for about three years, assisting Haitian children in need.

Son Todd and his wife will be the guardians of The Todd A. and Annemarie Chairs Family Fund to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Sam Chairs became personally interested in the Society's work after reading an article in the Catholic Review. He's been supporting them financially and personally helping ever since.

Finally, son Tom and his wife will oversee The Thomas M. and Mary Chairs Family Fund to benefit the local offices of Catholic Charities and the Catholic Relief Services.

About a month after he set up the funds, Sam decided to top off the couple's legacy with two more major gifts. He will have his sister Kathy watch over a 9th fund to support Mother Seton Academy and the Sisters Academy in inner-city Baltimore; his sister Mary will oversee a 10th fund to benefit retired religious sisters in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Eventually, the contribution to all ten funds will be $100,000 apiece, a total of $1-million.

"Money is only paper," he smiles. "The kids think the funds are great, and I'm hoping they will take a personal interest in these organizations."

One thing is for certain: the love between a husband and wife who trusted God and the Church with their family will continue to bear abundant fruit in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for many years to come.

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