1923 - 2013
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On March 21st, Lennie Sam Skaggs Jr. passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones of causes incident to age. Sam was born August 9, 1923 in Yakama, Washington to L. S. Skaggs Sr. of American Falls, Idaho, and Vivian Howe Skaggs of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1932 where Sam attended local schools and attended Westminster College. He had one sister, Helen Lowen (deceased) of Seattle, Washington.
Sam served his country in the U. S. Army, Chemical Welfare Division during World War II. He spent 3 years in England prior to participating in the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, landing on the shores of Utah Beach in Normandy, France.
After returning home from the war Sam joined his father's company, Payless Drug Stores, where he soon became manager of the store in Boise, Idaho. While in Boise he met his future wife, Aline Wilmot, where they were married on February 27, 1949 and soon after moved to Montana. In 1950, Sam's father died suddenly at age 55, requiring Sam to move to Salt Lake City where he assumed the job of President and CEO of Payless Drug Stores, running 11 stores at 27 years old.
Retailing was not new to Sam as his family had been one of retailing's founding families in the West. His grandfather, Samuel Skaggs, opened a small grocery store in American Falls, Idaho in 1915. Sam's father and his father's five brothers grew this store and others they would start into a chain of over 400 Skaggs United grocery stores and over 50 Skaggs Cash & Carry stores by 1924. In 1926 the Skaggs stores were merged with a chain of 322 Southern California stores to form Safeway. Sam's uncle M. B. Skaggs became CEO of Safeway and his father and several uncles were involved in management of the company. In 1929 Safeway had over 2,600 grocery stores and 1,300 meat markets. By the end of the 1930s all but one of the Skaggs brothers had left Safeway to start store chains of their own. In 1940 Sam's father bought 4 drug stores from his brother L. J. Skaggs and grew his chain to 11 stores at the time of his death.
The Skaggs family's contribution to the history of American retailing is legendary. But no member of the Skaggs family had the impact on U.S. retailing that Sam Skaggs had over the next 45 years. Sam built the small 11 store chain into American Stores Company, a retailing giant with over $20 billion in annual sales and over 280,000 employees by the time he retired in 1993. In the process he had conceived and developed the food/drug combination store arguably the most significant new retailing concept of the last half of the 20th century. Under the banner of American Stores, Sam assembled some of the most well known brands in America, including Alfa Beta, Jewel Stores, Lucky Stores, Sav-On Drug, Acme Markets, Rea & Derick, OSCO Drug, Star Markets, Buttrey's, Katz Drug Stores and Skaggs Drug Stores.
Sam served on many corporate and charitable organization boards including: President of Young President's Organization, President of National Association of Chain Drug Stores (two years), First Interstate Bancorporation, Utah Idaho Sugar Company, Mountain Fuel Supply Company, Walker Bank & Trust Company, American Stores Company, Westminster College, The Scripps Research Institute, The Skaggs Institute for Research, The ALSAM Foundation, The Vivian Skaggs Foundation for Catholic and Community Charities, University of Utah Board of Regents and Holy Cross Hospital.
Many universities and colleges have recognized Sam's importance to education. A 1970 citation he received from the University of Utah when awarded one of many Honorary Degrees, truly captures his life "To Mr. L. S. Skaggs, Jr., distinguished native son of the West, dynamic personality and capable administrator in the distribution of Pharmaceuticals and health care needs, leader in the intricate and competitive world of business, friend of education and research as the key to our successful future."
Sam and Aline have left a legacy of giving by generously sharing their good fortune over the last 65 years personally and through philanthropic entities such as their ALSAM Foundation. Six major Universities have named either their Pharmacy School or a building housing their Pharmacy School after Sam and Aline due to their generous funding. They are particularly proud of the new building for the L. S. Skaggs Pharmacy Research Institute at the University of Utah, which connects to the older Pharmacy building constructed in the 1950s honoring Sam's father. The joining of two buildings into one great school demonstrates the father/son commitment to education over sixty years. Sam's life-long vision of "bringing new medicines to life" has certainly been fulfilled by the achievements of these exceptional pharmaceutical learning and research organizations.
Sam and Aline also established Catholic Schools in Utah including, Juan Diego Catholic High School and St. Andrews and St. Marguerite Catholic grade schools. In Southern California they built Mater Dei Catholic High School, located three miles from the Mexican border, which includes a Science Academy and an English language program for Hispanic students and their parents. Other gifts for buildings, scholarships, medical research, humanitarian and wildlife causes and other charitable purposes are too numerous to mention. They believed and lived, as stated by Winston Churchill, "We make a living by what we get; but we make a life by what we give."
With great respect for wildlife, Sam served as a member of the Utah Wildlife Resources for six years and was involved with numerous Ducks Unlimited projects. He was also an avid pilot, getting his pilot's license in 1946 and later acquiring TransWest Air Service, Inc. which is still in service today. Sam and Aline also spent much time at their working cattle and farming ranch in Idaho, where the family enjoyed many treasured memories.
Sam will be remembered as a person of tremendous character, conviction, and compassion, inquisitive by nature, a true leader and a visionary. A mentor to many, a friend to those in need, a creator of opportunity. Sam had a passion for life, for learning, for love, for his family and for his faith - truly "a life well lived!"
Sam is survived by his wonderful wife of 64 years, Aline Wilmot Skaggs, and their four children, Susie Balukoff (AJ) Boise, Idaho; Mark S. Skaggs (Cindy), Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Claudia S. Luttrell, Salt Lake City; Don L Skaggs (Teresa), Salt Lake City; fifteen grandchildren and thirty-seven great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at the Cathedral of the Madeline, 331 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday, March 27, at 11:00am. A vigil will be held at the Cathedral of the Madeline on Tuesday evening, March 26, at 7:00pm. Friends may greet the family from 6:00-7:00pm at the Cathedral. Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.larkincares.com.
A private burial service will be held in Declo, Idaho. In lieu of flowers, friends may make contributions to their favorite charity or the Vivian Skaggs Foundation, Children's Special Needs Program, 27 C St., Salt Lake City, Utah 84103.
Published in Salt Lake Tribune from Mar. 23 to Mar. 26, 2013