In Memory of CH Gary Thomas Sanford

Chaplain (Colonel) Gary Thomas Sanford (Retired), known by loved ones as “Sam”, passed away peacefully on December 11, 2023, at the age of 80. Sam was born to Gene & Melvina Sanford in St. Louis Park, Minnesota on January 20, 1943.  Sam graduated from the University of Minnesota and afterwards married the love of his life, Linda Carol Hockemeyer, on June 14,1968 at Lake Vadnais Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Sam entered military service in the U.S. Army as an enlisted medic in 1965. Sam had a desire to serve God through youth ministry, and he was told by a senior officer that the Army was the “biggest youth group in the world”. Sam subsequently attended officer candidate school (OCS) and became an Army Chaplain in 1970.  Sam served in the Army for 35 years, with combat deployments to both Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.  Upon his retirement in 2000 from the Army, Sam became a chaplain at the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas where he was recognized as “VA chaplain of the year” after his 1st year of service.

Sam and his wife Linda started the “Rock of Ages” Evangelical Free Church in Leavenworth, Kansas which he pastored from 2000-2023.  Throughout this time, Sam also served in prison ministry.  Sam was a faithful servant of the LORD throughout his entire life and will be deeply missed by his family, friends, church congregation, and the entire community.

Sam was known for his joy for life, wonderful sense of humor, engaging storytelling, and his unbelievable servant’s heart. He faithfully and tirelessly served God through amazing generosity and service to those in need. Sam was well known across the Army for his “Moses stick” which he used throughout his career to encourage troops to always fight the good fight and keep their faith in Jesus. Sam’s life was a true testimony of someone being the hands and feet of God serving his community.

Sam was a loving husband of 55 years to Linda.  Sam loved his family and set up an annual fishing retreat in Minnesota every summer. The memories made during these trips are cherished by the entire family. Sam loved the outdoors, and was always out fishing, hunting, gardening, playing sports, and cheering on the kids/grandkids on their sports teams.  He also enjoyed getting together with family to cheer on our favorite college or professional sports teams.  He truly was loved by his entire family.

Sam is preceded in death by his parents Gene & Melvina and youngest son Franz (5yrs old). Sam is survived by his siblings Gayle (John) & Ron (Vicki), his wife Linda and their children Heidi, Leif (Beth), Hans, & Klaus (Shannon) & 12 grandchildren Robbie (Kat), Sam, Grace, Erick, Leona, Zach, Garrett, Lyla, Sophia, Micah, Brooke, Henry, and 2 great grandchildren Natalia and “expected” Reid.

Memorial contributions are suggested to Rock of Ages Church, 1017 Randolph Street Leavenworth, Kansas 66048.  Visitation will be on Wednesday, 12/20/23 from 3-7pm at Davis Funeral Chapel 531 Shawnee St. Leavenworth, Kansas.  The funeral/memorial Service will be Thursday, 12/21/23 at 10am at Westside Family Church 738 Eisenhower Rd. Leavenworth, Kansas.  Procession will begin at noon on 12/21/23 to the Leavenworth VA National Cemetery for the burial service at 12:30pm.