SAM

We laid him to rest in the only land he really knew…certainly the land he loved, amidst the people he loved and who loved him. Some 700 people attended his funeral from Wemindji, Chisasibi, Eastmain, Waskaganish and Moose Factory. Usually when a person reaches the grand age of 95 years, there aren't many friends left to honour the deceased, but that was not the case with Sam!

Samuel Samson Hughboy was born at Fort George on a cold winter day on January 14, 1916 to Betsy and Matthew Hughboy, one of seven children. He grew up and learned how to live "on the land". When still a young man he married Frances Gilpin and Nellie was born. Tragedy struck, however, when both mother and baby died in the harshness of life in those days. He later married Sarah Visitor who was to be his life partner until her own death on December 6, 1995, after 52 years of marriage. Together they had eleven children. At his death, Sam was survived by nine of them as well as 45 grandchildren, 87 great-grandchildren, 7 great, great-grandchildren, (a great, great, great grandchild was days away from birth when he died). In 2001 his son Matthew died and a second son, Walter, died in 2004. While Sam remained strong he felt that losing a child was like a piece of himself was taken and the void could not be filled.

Samuel loved to hunt and trap having learned from his father and his grandfather, providing for his family throughout the years. Even in old age, Sam would still head out across the river with a strong stride on his snowshoes to set and check his snares. His children and grandchildren have many happy memories of living out on the land with Sam, listening to his story-telling as he carved a figure or made a new tool. Hours were enjoyed as he read the Bible and said the prayers with his family and then sang a few hymns. It was said that Sam knew every hymn in both the Horden and the Walton Cree hymn books.

Sam's career in the church started in the 1960s when he served at Paint Hills (the early name for Wemindji) as one of the Catechists. He later expressed his desire to be ordained so in 1972 he was sent to Moose Factory for two years of training under the guidance of Canon Redfern Louttit. He was ordained to the Diaconate in 1974 at Rupert's House (now Waskaganish) and then raised to the Priesthood by Archbishop James Watton on Holy Cross Day, September 14, 1975 at Diocesan Synod in Kirkland Lake. Following ordination Sam was appointed the Incumbent at Eastmain, where many of his family joined him and enjoyed a happy and fulfilling ministry for seven years. Memories of time in Eastmain include stories of Sam owning a truck in which he drove around the community. It was a tribute to Samuel  that so many came to his funeral from Eastmain.

In 1981 Sam retired and returned to Wemindji, but of course, he continued to assist at services, officiate at weddings and baptisms until he felt he could no longer do so after the passing of his wife Sarah. He married most of his children and great grandchildren, the final one being in 1998. In 2008 he agreed to baptize his two great grandaughters.

My own association with Sam began when we were both "students" in 1973…he at Moose Factory and myself at Moosonee for a summer. Both of us sat under Canon Louttit for part of our training. Then, in September, 1974, we were ordained to the priesthood together, along with Lowell Satre (deceased) and Jim Collins (now in California). A portrait of the four of us with Archbishop Watton hangs in my office today. I was so moved when Sam endured a 14-hour bus trip from Wemindji to Timmins last July to be part of my Consecration. During my two visits to Wemindji in the past year, Sam was vested and participated in the services, just as he had done every week until just before his death. I had noticed in June at the Confirmation celebration that he was failing, but he was present in the Sanctuary nonetheless and joined in greeting each of the candidates and the large congregation.

 

Sam and Me, Moose Factory, 1973

Sam at Wemindji Confirmation service, June 2011

  In 2009 Sam underwent a bout of gall bladder surgery from which it was said that he really never recovered, even though he never complained. In fact, he disliked being fussed over. Then, this summer he began to fail quickly. In the last couple of weeks of his life he lost weight and began to ask when the Rector would return from vacation. On Tuesday, August 23, the family gathered, the Eucharist was shared and Sam was able to take Communion, and hymns were sung at which Sam seemed to be happy. At 4 am, Wednesday, August 24, Sam quietly slipped out into the mystery.

We gathered and celebrated Sam's life for a whole day on Friday, August 26, beginning with the visitation as his body was laid out in the church, a family Communion in a packed church, the funeral at the Community hall, the burial beside one of his great grandchildren and not far from Sarah, a feast and a final, closing service.The clergy from Chisasibi were present and shared in the leadership of the service and others from around the Bay called to express condolences.The Cathecists, now elderly themselves, vested and shared in the service, John Matches among them who had served as a young man with Sam, frail now and in a wheelchair, sat beside the casket of his friend. Sam would have enjoyed it all and I could hear his strong, resounding voice above the rest of us as we sang his favourite hymns.

With his passing we see the end in this Diocese of the missionary, indigenous clergy of the former days of our ministry. Sam's name and faithful ministry join those who have gone before, Fred Mark, Samuel Iserhoff, John Gull, John Wesley and Redfern Louttit. Certainly to me, all of them giants of the faith and of the Church. Surely, we shall not look upon the likes of them again.

 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day"  (2 Timothy 4:7-8) 

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