Samuel (Sam) DeLuca of Saratoga, Wyo., passed away April 18, 2002, at the Spring Creek Care Center in Fort Collins following a lengthy illness. He was born Nov. 28, 1927, in Salida to Louis and Gloria DeLuca.
The family lived in a number of mining towns before moving to Mount Harris in 1942. According to Sam, his most treasured memories of his youth were in Mount Harris. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1945 to 1949. Most of his enlistment was spent at Hickman Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. After his discharge from the Air Force, he and a service buddy bought a jeep and traveled to Alaska on a hunting trip.
Falling in love with Alaska, he returned in 1951 to work in a coal mine. It was in this shaft mine that Sam was injured resulting in paralyzation from the waist down.
However, this handicap wasn't to keep Sam from going on with life. He was an avid sportsman, hunting big and small game with the help and support of family and friends. Sam and a number of veterans are featured in a book published in 1999 that recognizes their contribution to the emergence of the Paralyzed Veterans in competitive athletics. The book, titled "Brief History of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Mountain States Chapter," by Cydine Hamilton, listed a number of Sam's personal accomplishments such as the organization of the first Paraplegic basketball team in the state called "The Par-Amps." According to the book, "This simple act of involvement was designed to help remove a structural barrier and to help change the attitude toward disabled competitors in the state of Colorado." He participated in a number of other sports such as bowling and fishing, but his greatest pleasure was racing sport cars and stock cars. Sam was the only paralyzed individual in the United States who had a license to race in NASCAR competitions. It took an actual act of Congress to get him this license. He was still racing his stock car at the age of 73.
Sam and the Rawlins stock-car enthusiasts worked for years to get a race track in their area and were finally successful in 2000. The Ripple Ridge Raceway was a dream come true. Sam was able to race on the track one year.
Talking with Sam as recently as two weeks ago, his goal was to be home by summer and race again.
His parents, sister Betty and two brothers, Nick and Rocko, preceded him in death. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Ruby DeLuca; niece Kathy Blevins and husband Lynn; nephew Wayne DeLuca and children Samantha and Nick, all of Hayden; great-niece Christy Parrott and husband David; great-nephew Marty Blevins and wife Catherine; two great-great-nieces and three great-great-nephews of Craig. And as Sam always said, the entire Montieth family.
Graveside services were held April 25, 2002, at the Hayden Cemetery. The service was performed by Wayne DeLuca and vocalist Marie Bridges sang "Amazing Grace." The local VFW gave a 21-gun salute and the family was presented with the American flag by Sgt. Mike Flangers.