Michael Dana Sample, 55, of Corry, passed away Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 at UPMC Hamot following a brief illness. Mike was the longtime owner and publisher of The Titusville Herald and The Forest Press newspapers.
Born on Oct. 19, 1966 in Corry, Mike was the son of the late Janet (Neff) and George R. Sample II. He graduated from Corry Area High School in 1985 and went on to receive his bachelor’s from Penn State Behrend in 1989.
After college Mike joined his father at The Corry Journal to learn the newspaper trade. In 1993, he left Corry to become the production manager of The Crimson White, the University of Alabama student newspaper. Both Mike and his then-fiancée and later wife Debra (Burkhart) Sample, also of Corry, enjoyed living in the south. But when Mike received the offer to become publisher of The Titusville Herald, the two were happy to pack up their Jeep Grand Cherokee and a U-Haul truck to return to northwestern Pennsylvania for good. Mike often joked about the events of their drive back north, including having to drive through blizzard-like conditions that October and running into the annual Meadville Halloween parade.
Mike was the publisher of The Herald for the better part of 30 years, leaving in 2000 to work at The Corry Journal and returning again in 2005 after purchasing The Herald. Later in 2008 he purchased The Forest Press weekly newspaper in Tionesta. As publisher, Mike oversaw all aspects of both newspapers. He would sell ads, lay out pages and review stories. He was known for waiting on customers in the front office, answering phone calls and personally delivering missed papers to local subscribers. Those who knew Mike will remember his incredible work ethic and the kindness and professionalism he extended to everyone he encountered.
These traits were also well known in Mike’s seven years as a member of the board of directors for Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative. He was a dedicated and valued board member, serving as secretary for six of those years. Mike recognized the value of broadband internet connectivity and encouraged the cooperative to explore ways of bringing this important utility to its members. He was a big supporter of the Member to Member program, a charity that helps financially struggling members keep their electric bills paid.
Outside of the newspapers and electric cooperative, Mike belonged to multiple civic groups and was honored as a Paul Harris Rotarian Fellow by the Titusville Rotary Club in 2016. He was also a board member of the Titusville and Corry Area Chambers of Commerce.
Mike loved golfing, skiing, music and concerts. He greatly enjoyed all jokes ranging in quality. A lifelong fan of the Penn State Nittany Lions and Miami Dolphins, Mike enjoyed watching both teams play from the sidelines as a member of the press. He loved to drive fast and lived up to his nickname of “the world’s best worst driver,” given to him by his father-in-law. Mike also enjoyed time spent in New Smyrna Beach, Fl. with family and friends.
Debbie will always remember Mike as her partner for life with their pact of “Forever, for always and no matter what.” He grew to love horses and farm work because of her and helped birth some of their foals with his own two hands. It was truly remarkable that someone who grew up in the city learned to muck stalls with the best of them and find a passion for brush hogging, building pasture fences and doing day-to-day farm chores.
Sydney and John-George will remember their dad as their biggest champion they could always call for help. They will miss watching Jeopardy, playing Frisbee, going skiing and having summertime fires together. Additionally, they will deeply miss listening to music with their dad and going to concerts with him. One of Mike’s favorite songs was “In My Life” by The Beatles, and his children will always remember him playing it.
Mike is survived by his wife of 27 years, Debra, and their two children: Sydney and John-George Sample. He is also survived by his mother-in-law, Constance “Connie” Burkhart.
He is survived by his seven siblings; Christine Jordan, George “Scoop” Sample, Susan Sample, Janet Sample, David Sample, Kim Wiler and Patricia “Sam” Stetson. Five siblings-in-law also survive; Tricia Boyer, Thomas Burkhart, Holly DiPierro, Jill Slocum and Christine Bonner. Several nieces, nephews and relatives also survive.
In addition to his parents, Mike was preceded in death by his father-in-law, John Burkhart.
No public calling hours will be observed. A private memorial service will be held for the family.
The family asks that donations in Mike’s name be made to the Northwestern REC Member to Member Charity in care of Northwestern REC, P.O. Box 207, 22534 State Route 86, Cambridge Springs, Pa. 16403.