Sam Haslem regales an audience of admirers at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Wednesday night with stories of his passion for flying medical evacuation flights. He was the longtime former CSU Extension Agent in Routt County and a volunteer on many boards. He continues to be a member of the board of the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District.

Photo by Tom Ross

Sam Haslem regales an audience of admirers at the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Wednesday night with stories of his passion for flying medical evacuation flights. He was the longtime former CSU Extension Agent in Routt County and a volunteer on many boards. He continues to be a member of the board of the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District.

Haslem's life in Colorado devoted to public service, with a touch of BS

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— Sam Haslem, the former longtime CSU Extension agent in Routt County and a tireless volunteer on public boards, is known from the plains of Eastern Colorado to the steppes of Jensen, Utah, redolent with the scent of sage, for his business card.

A card like no other. It is a bunch of BS.

It reads: “My Card. I am somewhat of a (BS’er) myself, but occasionally I like to listen to a PROFESSIONAL. PLEASE CARRY ON!”

Replicas of Haslem’s original card were at every place setting in the Steamboat Springs Community Center on Wednesday night as more than 150 of his admirers and enemies gathered to roast him. So, it was natural that they feasted on roast beef prepared by Eddie Camilletti, of rural Hayden.

Sam Haslem is a man who loves his beef and religiously eschews chicken.

Larry Covillo, retired longtime manager of Yampa Valley Electric Association, on whose board Haslem served for many years, regaled the audience with tales of Haslem’s prodigious appetite for beef.

“One year, we went to Wichita, Kansas, for a director’s conference, and Sam said he had visited a restaurant in there 20 years ago and they had the best beef in town. We looked it up and it was still there. It was one of those places where you pick the size of your steak. And I’ll bet you he ordered a 30-ounce steak.

“Now Sam was a guy who was taught growing up to clean his plate. I don’t know how he choked down the last bite of that steak, but I can tell you there wasn’t any bread left on his plate either.”

It was that kind of night, with friend after friend recalling the multifaceted personality of one of Northwest Colorado’s best-loved BS’ers. Don Hayes, Steve LeValley and Bob Del Valle all mixed in praise with their gentle barbs aimed Haslem’s way.

Master of ceremonies Kris Hammond pointed out that the audience comprised members of the Civil Air Patrol, American Legion, YVEA, Colorado State University, the Steamboat Rotary Club and the Vernal, Utah, Rotary Club.

“It’s all about Sam’s public service,” Hammond said.

Then he went on to describe just how fussy the man can be.

“One Rotary meeting, Sam stopped the meeting and said, ‘The flag is in the wrong place. The American flag should be on the speaker’s right and the Colorado flag should be on the left.’ So we stopped the meeting and moved the flags around. A week later, I was trying a case in court and noticed the American flag was on the left of the witness stand. I told Judge Garrecht the flags were in the wrong place.

“He asked, ‘Who told you that?’ and I said, ‘Sam Haslem told me that.’ And that’s how I got my (business) card from Sam.”

LeValley recalled that when he was the CSU Extension agent in Moffat County, he and Haslem often took Haslem’s truck on trips to Denver because of its uncanny ability to find its own way around the city.

“That truck was way ahead of its time,” LeValley recalled. “Every time we got in the Youngfield Court, that truck just knew to get off the highway and go to Applejack Liquor.”

Del Valle recalled the time he and Haslem took off together on a search and rescue mission above Dinosaur National Monument for the Civil Air Patrol.

“Sam grabbed the controls from me and said, ‘I’ve got the airplane. I want to show you this fence line.’ He dove so low, the prairie dogs were jumping out of the way. It was a fence that his father made him build when he was 12 years old.”

Covillo said Haslem’s colleagues on the YVEA board were sorry to see him go in some ways, but relieved in other ways.

“A month after Sam retired, the board appreciated that, for the first time, we could eat a lunch with chicken, or yardbirds, as he calls them.”

“Sam used to say, ‘Chickens follow cows around and eat what the cows didn’t,’ Covillo said. “It wasn’t so much that he didn’t like chickens, he just didn’t like them following him around.”

In his own defense, Haslem stepped up to the podium and recalled the satisfaction he gained from flying medical patients to Grand Junction while he was the CSU Extension agent in Norwood, a small town in San Miguel County.

One day, he hitched a ride to the airport with a local family so he could take off on an angel flight. He’d all but forgotten that he once transported one of their children to the hospital. When they arrived at the air strip, Mrs. McKinney said, “Sam, do you remember the night you saved one of our twins’ life, flying that baby to St. Mary’s Hospital?”

That was one of the most rewarding days in a long and varied career of public service for Sam Haslem.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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