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A fine farewell for Sam Arnold

Posted by Richard on June 30, 2006

They said goodbye to restaurateur Sam Arnold on Wednesday, which would have been his 80th birthday. Apparently, it was quite a farewell, and I wish I could have been there. Fortunately, the Rocky Mountain News’ James B. Meadow was there, and his story does a simply marvelous job of conveying the joy and the sadness — and, most importantly, of giving you a sense of the specialness of Arnold:

In the golden light floating through the chapel’s stained-glass windows, with notes from a banjo, guitars, mandolin and autoharp spiraling together, 500 people sang and gently mourned the death of a man who was bigger than life.

Arnold, who died in Scottsdale, Ariz., of heart failure on June 7, was a restaurateur and a raconteur, an Easterner fascinated with the West; someone who embraced buffalo tongue, chicken feet and peanut butter-stuffed jalapeños as ambrosia, thought a tomahawk was the best way to open a bottle of champagne; and invoked the exclamation "Waugh!" at his Fort restaurant with the same fervor and frequency that a congregation of true believers invokes "Amen."

"Waugh," according to Arnold’s daughter, is a Lakota exclamation that translates loosely as, "right on!"

In trying to sum up at least part of him, Pete Meersman, executive director of the Colorado Restaurant Association, plucked words such as storyteller, mentor, media relations expert, cookbook author, bear tamer and tomahawk thrower before lowering his voice and closing with legend.

Read the whole thing. Even if you know nothing of Arnold, I think you’ll appreciate the article — the stories and anecdotes, the account of the service, and the sense of this truly original man that shines through it.

Perhaps, when you’re finished, you’ll join me in thanking James B. Meadow for writing such a fine, fine story. And offer both him and the late Sam’l P. Arnold a hearty "waugh!"

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