Nyack High School Class of '55

Robert Samuels

Bob's obituary was printed in the Rockland/Westchester Journal News on April 30, 2020.  

Award-winning journalist, author, and longtime Piermont community activist Robert C. Samuels died April 26th of COVID19. He was 83.

Born in Manhattan (on Christmas Day), Samuels moved to Rockland County when he was 11. His family first lived in Grand View before moving to Nyack, where he graduated from Nyack High School in 1955. Following his graduation, he joined the Air Force for four years.

His journalism career began when he became a reporter on a base newspaper in Alaska. Once discharged, he studied at Columbia University, and then worked in a series of newspaper jobs, including a stint on the White Plains Daily and for The Bergen Record. He also edited The County Citizen, a New City weekly paper.

Samuels went on to become a reporter for the World Telegram and Sun in New York City. It was the 1960s, an exciting time to be a journalist. He covered anti-war and civil rights demonstrations, riots in Harlem and Paterson, NJ. He wrote stories on crime and politics, and interviewed many famous people, including Martin Luther KIng Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and former President Harry S. Truman.

After the paper shutdown, in 1967, Texaco Inc., the oil company, hired him as a writer. He traveled all over the world on writing assignments. He eventually became editor of the company's shareholder magazine. In 1981, he was stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder. It left him a wheelchair dependent quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

Working then from his Piermont home, Samuels continued to freelance for Texaco and for numerous magazines and newspapers - sometimes collaborating with his son, photographer Charlie Samuels. He was also a contributing editor for New Mobility, a national monthly magazine for active wheelchair users.

In 2011, he published "Blue Water, White Water," his much-acclaimed book about his hospital experiences. In its review The New York Times said the book "stands head and shoulders above the crowd." It added that Samuels "writes with the jaunty triumph of the survivor."

For many years he was the president of the Piermont Civic Association and served on the village's Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Samuels was proudest of his successful efforts to open the North Shore Walkway on the Piermont pier and to block motor vehicle traffic on the pier some summer Sundays. He also wrote for and sometimes edited The Piermont Newsletter and emailed village news and announcements to residents on a daily basis.

He is survived by a son, Charles R. Samuels of Saratoga Springs, NY and two grandchildren, Cassidy and Atticus. A memorial service will be held after the coronavirus pandemic.

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