By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/31/19
James Kelley said Peter Samson will be remebered not just for creating highly-successful lacrosse programs, but for how he led these programs.
“I don’t think there’s many men that come around like him, that give and create these programs as much as he can,” said Kelley, who coached with Samson in the Radnor Youth Program since 2003. “His legacy is not necessarily the coaching itself, but showing people how we should all act and how to help each other.
“I don’t think they make them like Peter. We have a huge hole to fill in the Radnor community.”
Thousands of people attended a Celebration of Peter Samson’s Life Friday during a service at Wayne Presbyterian Church and a reception at nearby St. David’s Golf Club.
Peter passed away on Aug. 17 at the age of 67 near his family home in the southern Massachusetts town of Westport a day after a bicycle accident in nearby Little Compton, R.I.
Peter was an indisputable leader in the Philadelphia lacrosse scene for three decades, founding and building the successful Radnor Youth Lacrosse program for boys while also creating the Katie Samson Festival and Foundation, annually the largest single-day high school event in the nation and a staple of the Philly high school lacrosse scene.
He was inducted into the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2017 and received the highly prestigious US Lacrosse Founders Circle Award for founding new programs.
But it was more his kindness, passion for lacrosse and life, wit and charm and leadership skills and gift of giving that people will remember, Kelley said.
“I think one of the most amazing things I ever found out about Peter was when we put together his Hall of Fame resume in 2015 (nomination),” said Kelley. “The fact he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame was a surprise. But we realized he was on the selection committee and was the one nominating everyone else!
“And I had always assumed he put together the (Radnor) program (29 years ago) because (sons) Brian and David needed a place to play. But we learned he put together the prgram for no reason other than it was the right thing to do. That’s one of the most amazing selfless things I ever heard.”
Kelley was one of the speakers at the outset of the reception Saturday at St. David’s Golf Club. The gathering was so large that some could not fit inside the large banquet room.
“It is not much of a surprise; Peter touched so mamy people and impacted so many lives,” said Kelley. “We knew he was always there for so many people and for these people it was a chance to be there for him.”
Kelley noted that Peters contributions to the Radnor High program are only some of what has made the Philly lacrosse region such a hotbed of lacrosse.
“You can look at at the Radnor Youth program and see the (success) at Radnor High,” Kelley said. “But there also are kids that go to Haverford School, Malvern Prep and Episcopal and others from the program. Year in and year out there’s a lot of good players that come from a small Township program like Radnor. Last year we had 12 to 15 Division I players from the program. Not many town programs can say that.”
Lacrosse was a passion for Peter Samson; but his career was spent serving as an accomplished attorney for four decades.
“I had the great honor of trying cases against Peter in the courtroom and coaching against him on the lacrosse field,” said Bob Mongeluzzi, a longtime coach in the region and accomplished attorney. “When you are competing against someone, in the crucible of a trial or a game, true character is revealed.
“And in both of those realms, Peter’s true nature was revealed: honest, humble, loyal – a paragon of integrity and compassion. He had the rare ability to make everyone he met feel better about themselves. He was never about himself, he was always about everyone else.
“Juries, kids and dogs loved him, learned from him and adored him. And so did everyone else who met him.”
Peter was past president of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Youth Lacrosse Association (SEPYLA). The Katie Samson Festival (KSF), about to enter its 20th year, was created to raise money and awareness for spinal cord research and its causes in the name of his daughter, Katie. The Festival has helped the Foundation raise $2 million since its inception in 2001.
Peter also served as an assistant boys’ coach at Radnor High this year for the first time. The team reached the state semifinals. He also coached the A1 Radnor youth team to a championship in 2019.
Peter is a graduate of Phillips Academy/Andover (1969) and received his B. A. from University of Pennsylvania (1973) while playing both Division I Ice Hockey and Lacrosse. He went on to earn a J.D. from New England School of Law (1976) where he served as the Managing Editor of the New England Law Review.
Peter enjoyed a successful career as an attorney, spanning over four decades with several highly respected law firms; with a lengthy partnership at White and Williams, LLP and finishing of counsel with Cipriani and Warner. His practice focused on medical malpractice and defending universities in a variety of litigation and education law matters, after starting as an attorney in the Philadelphia Public Defenders’ Office.
Peter is survived by his loving wife of 26 years, Lynne Coughlin Samson, his children David, (wife Kate), Brian, (wife Gyll), Katie, Molly, and his first wife, Banny Ackerman; and his brothers Charles, Hugh and David; and four grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Peter’s honor to the following organizations: Magee Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, 1513 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 (https://mageerehab.org/get-involved/fundraising-events/), or, Radnor High School Scholarship Fund, PO Box 8244, Radnor, PA 19087 (www.radnorscholarshipfund.com).