Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Samuel Golden

Sam Golden, one of VOR’s founding members, passed away on March 8, 2016. He died peacefully, at the age of 89, after batting malignant melanoma since last summer.

“There are some people who come into our lives that you know from the start are special. Sam was one of those people. I met Sam more than 20 years ago. I was a young professional at the time, new to VOR and new to disability advocacy. Sam immediately stood out to me as someone to learn from. He showed such quiet strength and intellect. He didn't need to be the loudest in the room or always have the last word. He understood true leadership meant listening, empathizing and doing. He drew on these strengths, along with a sharp intellect and a great sense of humor, to navigate his life's passions, namely family, disability advocacy and music.  I know I'm not the only one whose heart, mind, and approach to leadership was influenced by Sam's mentoring and example. I miss him dearly.” – Tamie Hopp 

Sam was born in 1926 in Highland Park, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. His father was an immigrant from what is now Belarus. His mother was born of immigrant parents in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sam had two older sisters. He and his family were members of a reform synagogue in Glencoe, an adjoining suburb.

Music was an important part of Sam’s life. He started taking lessons on the piano at an early age. When he was in fifth grade, the music teacher approached his mother and urged her to start him on the cello, since she needed a cellist for her school orchestra. Sam didn’t want to do this at the time but was everlastingly grateful that his mother went along with the suggestion. Although he never became a professional musician, he always enjoyed playing music in orchestras and chamber groups. With the late Zita Cogan of the University of Chicago Music Department, and resort owner Richard Gray, Sam founded Sleepy Hollow Chamber Music, a wonderful outlet for adult musicians to come together in musical fellowship. For forty-five years Sam was coordinator and a leading light of what is known as "Golden Chamber Music". Sam is lovingly remembered by his musician friends at: http://www.goldenchambermusic.org/golden_memorial.html. In his mid-eighties, Sam took a ten week course at a jazz school and began playing his cello with jazz groups in Chicago and Michigan. Much to his delight, he turned out to be quite a good improviser.

Music also set Sam on another important path. In the summer of 1942 he went to National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan.  There he met a young girl, also a cellist, named Paula Adler. With a measure of determination and practice, he worked his way up from fourth to second stand to play alongside her. After that summer, Sam went off to the University of Chicago, and Paula returned to high school. Fortunately, during World War II, the orchestra was hurting for players and advertised around at high schools to find them. Paula answered a call to play cello with the symphony. Sam was then principal cellist and the two became stand partners. After Paula finished high school went on to Swarthmore, the couple visited each other increasingly during her college years. Paula says that when she first set eyes on Sam in Interlochen, she knew he was the one she wanted as a life partner. Paula and Sam were married in June of 1948 at her parents’ home in Flossmoor, Illinois.

Much of Sam’s life also centered around the University of Chicago. He was a graduate of the Hutchins College and the UC Law School. He started his career in Leon Depres' law office practicing labor law. It was here that Sam claims he learned how to write in short sentences, using the active voice. This style helped him throughout his career and in his work for VOR as well. In 1953 he became a labor attorney at Argonne National Laboratory, shortly after he became chief counsel there. In 1962 he joined the Office of Legal Counsel at the University. He remained there until his retirement in 2003, but continued to work part-time in that office until 2008.

Sam was very much involved in UC contracts with government bodies including the Department of Energy. He was instrumental in drafting the separation agreement between the UC hospitals and the University. Sam took pride in working out these separation agreements, including the affiliation agreement, so they were written in clear, understandable English. He was often complimented on the quality of his work. He continued to be involved in the continued relationship between the University and Argonne National Laboratory and later Fermilab.

Sam’s life in his community and temple were also important. Outside of his work for the University, Sam was very active on the Board of KAM II Congregation in Hyde Park, serving as Temple President during the time of the merger of its two predecessor synagogues, KAM Temple and Congregation Isaiah Israel. Sam was the principal author of that merger.

Sam and Paula’s third child, Anne Ruth Golden was severely intellectually handicapped. Both parents were heavily involved in her care and in support for the institution where she spent all of her adult life, Mount St. Joseph home in Lake Zurich. Anne died in 2010, at the age of 54.

Because of Anne, Paula and Sam were involved in support of the family association that assists the Mount St. Joseph home with fundraising. Sam was a board member and past president. He also became a founding director of VOR, to expand his advocacy to a national scale. Sam knew that community homes, while they may be good for the mildly or moderately disabled, can not provide the 24/7 care that larger facilities do. Sam and VOR helped thwart a law suit in Illinois against the state, which sought to remove persons from larger facilities. Sam helped VOR in our fight against Protection and Advocacy agencies and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Office. Sam was a wise and passionate advocate for the profoundly intellectually and developmentally disabled and their families.

Sam’s life was devoted to his family, his music, his legal scholarship, his advocacy, and his faith. Sam and Paula were blessed with four children, five grandchildren, and a great grand-daughter.

We are blessed to have had him as part of our VOR family for all of these years. He will be sorely missed.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Samuel's memory may be made to Mount St. Joseph Home, VOR, and KAM Isaiah Israel.

          golden boysThe Golden Boys: On cello, Sam and grandson Nathan; on bass, son Jonathan.