Sam Hall's obituary, noting his appreciation for Miller High Life beer and 50-cent cigars, offered a glimpse of the Fort Wayne businessman's easygoing approach and the profound impact he had on his family. But it didn't go as far as it might have in explaining what he meant to the community.
Former Mayor Paul Helmke, who knew Hall as a friend, neighbor and even as adversary in their positions on a citywide smoking ban, said this week that the co-owner of Don Hall's Restaurants truly made a difference here.
“Sam is an example of 'old Fort Wayne,' ” Helmke said. “His was a family-owned business that's still family-owned and operated. That's something you see less and less of today. He and his kids all live in Fort Wayne – the Hall's (restaurants) are still owned and operated from here.”
Family and friends celebrated Hall's life on Thursday, with a gathering at The Philmore on Broadway attended by many who have worked for Hall's restaurants over a 70-year history.
“Sam was a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy,” Helmke said. “I used to see him working at Hall's clearing the tables – you would never know he owned the place. He got his joy out of working directly with the employees and customers.”
Helmke said that while Dede Hall, a member of City Council when he served as mayor, was outspoken in her political views, her husband Sam “wasn't the sort who would push his opinion – he would make his case and stand his ground.”
“We don't have in politics today many people like that,” said Helmke, now director of the Civic Leaders Center at Indiana University-Bloomington. “He cared about his business; he cared about his community.”