Michael Dana Sample, 55, of Corry, died on Monday January 3, 2022 at UPMC Hamot following a brief illness. Mike was the longtime owner and publisher of The Titusville Herald and The Forest Press newspapers.
Born October 19, 1966 in Corry, Mike was the son of the late Janet (Neff) and the late George R. Sample II. He graduated from Corry Area High School in 1985 and then earned his bachelor’s degree from Penn State Behrend in 1989.
After college, Mike joined his father at the Corry Journal to learn journalism. In 1993, he left Corry to become production manager of The Crimson White, the student newspaper at the University of Alabama. Mike and his then-fiancée and later wife Debra (Burkhart) Sample, also from Corry, loved living down south. But when Mike received the offer to become editor of the Titusville Herald, the two were happy to pack their Jeep Grand Cherokee and a U-Haul truck to move back to northwestern Pennsylvania for good. Mike often joked about the events of their return up north, including having to go through blizzard conditions in October and running in the annual Meadville Halloween Parade.
Mike was editor of The Herald for nearly 30 years, leaving in 2000 to work at the Corry Journal and returning in 2005 after buying The Herald. Later in 2008 he bought the weekly The Forest Press from Tionesta. As editor, Mike oversaw all aspects of both journals. He was selling ads, laying out pages, and editing stories. He was known to wait for customers at the front desk, answer phone calls, and personally deliver missed newspapers to local subscribers. Those who knew Mike will remember his incredible work ethic and the kindness and professionalism he provided to everyone he met.
These characteristics were also well known during Mike’s seven years as a board member of the Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative. He was a dedicated and valued member of the board, having served as secretary for six of those years. Mike recognized the value of broadband Internet connectivity and encouraged the co-op to explore ways to provide this important service to its members. He was a big supporter of the Member to Member program, a charity that helps members in financial difficulty pay their electricity bills.
Outside of newspapers and the electric co-op, Mike belonged to several civic groups and was honored as a Paul Harris Rotarian Fellow by the Titusville Rotary Club in 2016. He was also a board member of the Chambers of Commerce of Titusville and Corry Area.
Mike enjoyed golf, skiing, music and concerts. He was very fond of all jokes of varying quality. A lifelong fan of the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Miami Dolphins, Mike enjoyed watching both teams play from the sidelines as a member of the press. He liked to drive fast and lived up to his nickname of “world’s best worst driver”, given to him by his stepfather. Mike also enjoyed the time spent in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. with family and friends.
Debbie will always remember Mike as her lifelong partner with their pact of “Forever, Forever and No matter what.” He learned to love horses and farm work from her and helped deliver some of their foals with his own hands. It was truly remarkable that someone who grew up in the city learned to clean stalls with the best of them and had a passion for chopping brush, building pasture fences and the daily chores of the closed.
Sydney and John-George will remember their father as the greatest champion they could ever call on for help. They will miss watching Jeopardy, playing frisbee, skiing and making summer fires together. They will also miss listening to music with their father and going to concerts with him. One of Mike’s favorite songs was “In My Life” by the Beatles, and his kids will always remember him playing it.
Mike is survived by his wife of 27 years, Debra, and their two children: Sydney and John-George Sample. He is also survived by his stepmother, Constance “Connie” Burkhart.
He is survived by his seven brothers and sisters; Christine Jordan, George “Scoop” Sample, Susan Sample, Janet Sample, David Sample, Kim Wiler and Patricia “Sam” Stetson. Five brothers-in-law also survive; Tricia Boyer, Thomas Burkhart, Holly DiPierro, Jill Slocum and Christine Bonner. Several nieces, nephews and relatives also survive.
In addition to his parents, Mike was predeceased by his stepfather, John Burkhart.
No public calling hours will be respected. A private memorial service will be held for the family.
The family requests that donations in Mike’s name be made to the Northwestern REC Member to Member Charity in care of Northwestern REC, PO Box 207, 22534 State Route 86, Cambridge Springs, Pa. 16403.