Sanford Erastus “Sam” Peek, Sr., age 87, passed away peacefully at his home on Sunday, April 30th, 2023, in Summerville, SC. He enjoyed a long and happy life full of adventure, joy, family, and love.
Sam was born to Carl and Delphia Peek on May 17th, 1935, in Franklin, NC. He was raised in the Great Smoky Mountains alongside six siblings: Martha Louise Southards, Hallie Lenoir Southards, Helen Irene Southards, Bertha Southards, Annie Christine “Teen” Southards, and Billy Lee Peek.
Sam enlisted in the U.S. Navy in September 1952, becoming a Signalman First Class and serving twenty years of active duty and ten years in the Reserves. While on leave in 1956, he met Vickie Anne Wilson, and the two married on July 16th of that year. The couple traveled the United States, making home wherever the Navy sent them. They added four children to their fold and ultimately settled down in Summerville. There, the Peek family continued to grow via the additions of sons- and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and finally a great-grandchild.
Sam is survived by his children, Sanford Peek, Jr. (Valerie), Melisa Clemmons (Raymond, d.), Sharon Mooring (Michael), and Michael Peek (Debbie); many beloved grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; and numerous extended family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Vickie; his siblings; and his son-in-law Raymond Clemmons, among other cherished friends and family.
Sam was a loving, generous, humble, and heroic man who loved to share a story with anyone who would listen. Each and every story was a treasure to hear.
He was an honored, respected, and decorated sailor, serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars among other conflicts. On May 1st, 1967, while on board the Haven-class hospital ship USS Sanctuary, Sam performed a distinct feat of heroism when he saved the lives of two injured men. Just off the shores of Vietnam, a MEDIVAC helicopter carrying thirteen patients and four crewmen crashed into the turbulent, snake-infested waters below. Upon spotting two injured men struggling to stay afloat, Sam voluntarily dove into the dark, dangerous “brown water” to rescue them, keeping both men afloat until he could bring them alongside a rescue boat to safety. Sam was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism. The citation for his award reads: “By his prompt action in the face of grave personal risk, he undoubtedly saved two men from drowning. His heroic efforts were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Sam loved spending time with his family, watching old Western films and TV shows, and Atlanta Braves baseball. He also loved nature and the outdoors, enjoying such interests and hobbies as gardening, fishing, boating, golfing, taking nature walks, etc. Until the time of his death, Sam was a standing member of the Junaluskee Masonic Lodge and the Oasis Shriners. To each person he met, he was a fast and loyal friend. To his family, he was a true hero and an icon of love and affection. He will be greatly missed by the many people who loved him.
Funeral services will take place at Ellijay Missionary Baptist Church in Franklin, NC (16 Little Ellijay Road, Franklin, NC 28734), on Saturday, May 13th, 2023, beginning with military honors at 2:00pm. Arrangements have been made with assistance from Macon Funeral Home in Franklin, NC. Military honors will be presented by VFW Post #7339 and American Legion Post #108.
All are welcome to attend to celebrate, remember, and honor Sam. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Shriner’s Children’s Hospital (2900 Rocky Point Dr. Tampa, FL 33607), Wounded Warriors (P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, KS 66675-8516), or Intrepid Hospice Group (201 Sigma Dr. Ste. 130 A & B, Summerville, SC 29486).