Sam Bamieh, husband to Nida Bamieh, father to Reezanne Elpel and Ron Bamieh, Grandfather to Ryanne Bamieh, Cole Elpel, Kyle Elpel, Remy Bamieh, Sam Bamieh, and Henry Bamieh, and good friend and confidante to many, left quietly in his sleep on March 27th.
In 1955 Sam came to America all of 17 years old. He came to his new country with not much more than a desire to be an American and to get an education. Friends of his family finagled a basketball scholarship for him to attend Sacramento State. The goal was to get Sam to America and away from a war-torn Middle East. Sam was not a basketball player - the famous story of him wearing black dress socks with tennis shoes attests to that - but his enthusiasm to learn and benefit from his new country was unmatched. While working multiple jobs, from dishwasher to driver, to pay his expenses, he finished at the top of his class and received a B.S. in business finance. His work ethic continued through graduate school, where he worked two full-time jobs while earning his MBA. To no one’s surprise, he once again graduated with honors.
He married his high school sweetheart, Nida, flying to Rumalla, Palestine to request her hand in marriage in 1962, hoping Nida would not follow the advice of her family, that she would accept his proposal and move back to California with him. She did, and they married in Sacramento, California, on November 8, 1963. Sam and Nida moved to the Bay Area in 1968, where they raised their family in San Mateo and Belmont, California. They were part of a community of Arab immigrants who came to America to make better lives for themselves and their children. Even though these immigrants were not family by blood, they became one because of their shared experience and culture. The children of all those families will tell you of their love for Ammo (uncle) Sam.
Sam was known for his boundless ambition. It was visible throughout his career. His first job of consequence was at Varian Corp., an engineering firm, where he worked his way to become one of their chief controllers. One job was never enough for Sam. While working at Varian, he taught night courses in business economics at local universities and community colleges, and even organized a seminar tour throughout the west coast on weekends to earn extra income.
Working for others was against Sam’s basic belief, as he believed wealth can only be created through self-ownership. So Sam left Varian in 1973 to start his own business, Bamieh and Associates. When it opened the business was short on Associates and long on Bamieh. B/A was the symbol Sam put on his letterhead, and it was that symbol which led Bank of America to sue Sam claiming he was infringing on their trademark. Sam, stubborn as always, did not understand how a company, no matter how big, could make him change the name of his business! What he did understand was that someone could pay you to change your name, and Bamieh and Associates became Industrial Development Group, Inc. after Sam settled with the other B of A.
Sam built a business in a small office in Palo Alto and turned it into an international trade firm specializing in selling American goods in the Middle East. Sam used hustle, guile, and his knowledge of business in the Middle East to sell concrete to build roads in Kuwait, American beef in Saudi Arabia, American Jeeps in Egypt, airport equipment to the King of Jordan, and any American product except arms or tools of war to any country who had a need. Sam has seen first-hand the evils of war, losing a brother in the Palestine/Israel war of 1948. He swore never to sell any item that could be used in war. By the mid-80’s he was employing over 50 people and had offices in Palo Alto, Washington DC, London, and Saudi Arabia.
Sam met Kings, heads of states, diplomats, and met personally with every US President from Nixon to Bush. He traveled the world many times over, and his knowledge of countries and cultures was unmatched at any dinner party where Sam was known to tell tales of his journeys and the wonderful people he met. Legend has it that parts of these stories were often true.
In 1986, a minister in the Saudi government used Sam’s ties to US Presidents to convince the Saudi King that Sam was a foreign agent. Sam was held captive in Saudi Arabia for sixty days. While his family and friends tried any method possible to free him, it took the intervention of a local congressman to negotiate Sam’s release from Saudi Arabia. During that time the Saudi government nationalized Sam’s assets in Saudi and the Middle East, and forced the closure of Sam’s business. Sam returned home upon his release, never really spoke of what happened to him in Saudi, and formed a new business, American Intertrade Group. His comeback was not complete, and he then went after the Saudi government. Sam sued the entire government of Saudi Arabia from King to prince to lowest minister for what they had done to him and his business, and moved to freeze that country’s assets in the United States. That lawsuit lead to international media coverage, Sam testifying before Congress, and eventually the government of Saudi Arabia sending a representative to a London restaurant to find Sam and reach a settlement. At that restaurant Sam agreed to settlement over drinks and dinner in 1989. When Sam told that story he liked to say not only did they settle, but they paid the dinner bill.
Sam rebuilt his business, but in the late 90’s he started having some health issues. For a period of time he lost the ability to walk, but an innovative surgeon in Los Angeles performed a procedure that got him out of a wheelchair. We almost lost him in 2006 when he suffered a heart attack which required quadruple bypass, but as always he fought, survived, moved on.
The last few years of Sam’s life have been good ones. Living in Los Altos with his wife, he enjoyed the company of his children and grandchildren and took great pride in their accomplishments. He enjoyed spending time with his many friends, and Sam’s friends were friends for life. All knew of his love for the Thursday lunch group, “the Golden Boys”, and how he enjoyed going out to dinners, brunches, and BBQs. Sam left us suddenly but his memory will last and those who called him husband, father, Sido, or friend, are grateful to have been a part of his life and him part of ours.
Services will be held at Spangler Mortuaries, 399 S. San Antonio Rd, Los Altos at 1pm on Monday April 2nd, with a reception to follow at Pullman Hotel in Redwood Shores. In lieu of flowers, it would have meant a great deal to Sam, and now his family, if a donation was made in his name in honor of his granddaughter, Remy, who we lost to cancer in 2005. Donations in Sam Bamieh’s memory should be made to Health Care Foundation for Ventura County, Inc (HCFVC). Those checks will go directly for the benefit of establishing a Ronald McDonald Family Room at Ventura Medical Center and benefits the Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Clinic. Those who wish to make a contribution in Sam’s name please mail your check to: HCFVC, 300 Hillmont Avenue, Ventura CA 93003. Please clearly note it’s in memory of Sam Bamieh.