You could say that Sam Retallick is a man whose life is reflected in numbers. 36, the number of years spent living in the house he built along Eau Claire's Raedel Road. For 41 years Sam worked for the state's Department of Transportation. It's been 25 years since he last punched a clock, but it's doubtful he's had much rest.
"He's 85 and I swear he has more energy then I do," says his granddaughter Tressa Retallick. "He can go, go, go and go!"
Sam laughs and says, "I always tell everybody, don't lay down they'll plant you!"
Tressa calls her grandfather her best friend. "He's just so supportive. Anything I've ever wanted to do, he's the first person I call. He's always happy, always has something nice to say."
There's another number, one that may be impossible to count. There have been so many people touched by Sam's selflessness. Since before Tressa was born her grandfather was volunteering and he hasn't stopped. Sam is a Mason, a Shriner and a member of the Kiwanis. He's spend 25 yeas delivering Meals on Wheels and ringing bells for the Salvation Army each holiday season.
Sam is also a familiar face at the Chippewa Valley Museum where he's also been a volunteer for 25 years. "I work with a lot of volunteers and Sam is just one of those personalities that is unforgettable," says Karen Jacobson, an educator at the museum. "He's just a lively gentleman everyone knows Sam at the museum."
Each spring Sam raises the baby chicks on display at the museum. And has been involved in many building and renovation projects over the years. "A lot of things that we do here are built on site," explains Karen. "Sam has been the shop organizer. That part of the building process, with new exhibits going up, always goes so much smoother when Sam is involved."
They know him just as well just around the corner at the Paul Bunyan Camp. "He's responsible for organizing and lining up all the tools, purchasing our tools. A lot of them he bought himself," says a fellow volunteer and friend, Greg Devine.
"We stay pretty busy and we enjoy it, that's the best part," says Sam.
For 63 years of his life Sam has been married to the love of his life. He is holding tight to those memories, as his wife's Alzheimer's advances. "I've loved her for a long time you don't give that up overnight," he says. "And I tell her this, I think I've loved her from the first day that I saw her."
Sam's love of family and community are so very clear, and that is why he's been chosen to receive the Jefferson Award for public service.