Samuel Dawson Puller Jr.

Durango resident Samuel Dawson Puller Jr. died Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, in Durango. He was 65. The cause of death is undetermined at this time.

Known as “Sam,” he was born to Ruth Ann (Wiberg) and Samuel Dawson Puller Sr., on April 13, 1947, in Panama City, Panama. He maintained and treasured the friendships he made in Panama throughout his life, his family said.

The Puller family moved to the United States when Mr. Puller was in eighth grade. He graduated from New Trier East High School in Winnetka, Ill., and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in Tempe.

“Although Sam was challenged with cerebral palsy from birth, he was disciplined and accomplished and maintained a strong sense of independence,” his family said. “He swam every day of his life unless there was a lightning storm or too much snow on the ground. He kept very high standards for himself and accomplished so much in his life.”

Mr. Puller worked as a civilian accountant in the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., for 39 years. He retired in 2011.

“He took great pride in his service to the U.S. military,” his family said. “For Sam, this was an extended family where he developed lifelong friends, who cherished his strength, optimism and sense of humor, including political jokes.”

He was a member of the Ott Family YMCA in Tucson for more than 40 years. In addition to swimming every day, he walked and lifted weights, saying if he didn’t exercise, he wouldn’t be able to walk.

In Durango, he swam regularly at the Durango Recreation Center and when in the river current pool, Mr. Puller would laugh and say that he was able to run.

“He was an exceptional, kind, generous human being,” his family said. “He lived his life honestly and directly. Sam will be remembered for his ‘get-through-anything’ attitude and his infectious and cheerful laugh by all who knew him.”

Mr. Puller is survived by his sisters Mary Puller of Durango and Ann Slauter of Tucson; one niece and one nephew.

A memorial service will be held at a later date at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Samuel Puller Memorial Fund, Ott Family YMCA, 401 S. Prudence Road, Tucson, AZ 85710.