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Samuel J.C. Townsend, Jr.

Died: April 15, 2013

Behind Sam Townsend’s mischievous grin lurked a keen mind and an acute observer of people and their foibles. Sam’s bland demeanor sometimes led people to underestimate his considerable abilities and find that Sam had out-smarted them.

Sam came from Yale stock, with Sam, Sr. being a member of the Class of 1935. Sam had a New Englander’s blue-blood heritage (which included a secretary of state,) but spent his formative years in Dallas, where he attended Highland Park High School. When his parents moved to Marblehead, MA, Sam enrolled at Choate (and was quick to point out that John F. Kennedy was a graduate.) This combination of a Texas upbringing and New England prep school education meant that Sam drawled like a Texan, but had Social Register sensibilities. At Yale he was tapped for Book and Snake.

He loved sailing, rock ‘n roll, radio broadcasting and the burgeoning world of computer software. He worked at WYBC and would entertain friends with mock news broadcasts, especially about fires “billowing clouds of black smoke.” He could play a mean electric guitar and sang the Chuck Berry repertoire, his favorite being “Maybelline.”

Sam pursued electrical engineering at Yale and got a business degree from Boston University. After a brief spell working for a company, Sam set up his own software consulting business in northern Virginia. Sam discovered that some federal government agencies, such as the IRS, used outmoded computer systems that were likely to crash. He devised fixes for this old software. Sam became the “indispensable man” for keeping the government’s ancient computer programs functioning, a profitable and continuing source of work, as the government never seemed to have the money to buy a new IT system. In addition, working for himself allowed Sam the luxury of setting his own pace. Sam did not like to be hurried.

Sam was married and divorced and had two daughters, Jennifer and Kathryn. He was devoted to his children and grandchildren, and they to him. He was a great dog lover.

Sam spent his last twelve years fighting cancer. He received radiation treatments, which held the cancer at bay, but caused harmful side effects, including kidney failure. He went on kidney dialysis. In his later years, his daughters managed his health care and finances.

Sam died April 15, 2013. He was a joyful spirit who leaves his friends and family with warm memories.