Sam was born in Kingfisher, Okla., to Jesse and Lola Hornbeck. He was one of eight children. His father was an artist and they moved around a lot. When Sam was 13, his father passed away in a car accident in Las Vegas, Nev., where they were living. Sam took it upon himself to quit school and help provide for his mom and younger siblings. Working as a gas station attendant, he first met his future wife Delcie Marie Russom in 1957. They were married in Las Vegas Sept. 14,1959. They had their first son, Robert Ell, Sept. 23, 1960. Their second son, Jessie Maurice, was born Nov. 19, 1961. In November 1962, just a few months before the birth of their third son, Sam moved his family to Henderson, Nev., where he joined the Henderson Fire Department. February 3,1963 Sam’s third son, James Stanley, was born Feb. 3, 1963. Sam achieved the rank of lieutenant at the Henderson Fire Department.
In 1966, Sam and his brother, Stanley, packed up their families with their sights set on moving to Alaska, and on the way, they worked at mills, and ended up in Albany. There, he worked at a lumber mill for six months. After being established in Oregon, Sam was able to get on at the Albany Fire Department. In 1977, Sam moved his family to Redmond, where he worked as a firefighter/EMS trainer and coordinator for Central Oregon Firefighters. He began working as a paid firefighter, where he was instrumental in training the first female firefighters to work in the Redmond Fire Department. In 1985, he was awarded Firefighter of the Year. He also worked with the Boy Scouts through the Mormon Church.
Sam had a great love of the outdoors, enjoying hunting, fishing, boating, camping, shooting, and anything to do with nature. He was known to be a great camp cook, and cooked large meals for civic/church groups, as well as the designated fire house cook at all the fire stations he served. He enjoyed feeding, nurturing with his ideas and labor to improve the community and his family. Sam was known to have a great sense of humor, but most of all he enjoyed being with family. He took great pride and joy spending time with his wife, sons, their wives, grandchildren and friends.
After 36 years of service as volunteer and paid firefighter, Sam retired from the fire department in 1991. He and his wife retired to Seneca. There, he worked with the volunteer fire department and ambulance service. Sam and Marie opened a café with the help of their two younger sons. While living in Seneca, he also volunteered cooking for the local oyster feed. He was instrumental in planning and building the Bear Valley golf course and gun club in Seneca. In 2007, they moved from Seneca to Heppner. Sam worked with the local high school’s FFA and Forest Service to establish a grant from Fish and Game to bring about safety shelters for pheasants in the wild to be protected while they were young. He worked with the St. Patrick’s Day festival, Tea Party group, as well as being involved with the Mormon Church. When Sam was diagnosed with cancer, he moved closer to his oldest son, Robert, in Burns, in November 2014. On March 20, Sam lost his battle with cancer.
Sam is survived by his wife, Delcie Marie Hornbeck of Heppner; three sons, Robert Ell and wife, Penny, of Burns, Jessie Maurice and wife, Patricia, of Redmond, and James Stanley and wife, Bobbi, of Prineville; nine grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; eight nephews and five nieces. He is also survived by his brothers, Lloyd and Douglas; and sister, Colleen.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, David (Bobby) and Stanley; and sisters, Eloise and Patsy.
A memorial service in Sam’s honor will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lexington, with the date to be announced.