Samuel Sayah, born July 14, 1928, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. Affectionately known as Ba by his local grandchildren, Sam was a quiet, peaceful, intelligent, well-informed, hardworking man who valued family above all. He was a strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish community, and he defined the Yiddish word “mensch.”
Sam was born in the Bronx, New York, to David and Ines Sayah, the middle of three sons. He moved with his family to Allentown, Pennsylvania, at the age of 11. He graduated from Muhlenberg College in 1949 with a degree in business administration.
Sam joined his father and older brother Max in a family-owned clothing manufacturing business. At 23, Sam was fixed up by mutual friends with the woman who would turn out to be the love of his life, Sue Mendelsohn from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he was 24, his father died, leaving the business to his sons. Sam ran the manufacturing business while his brother led the sales office in New York. Sam and Sue married the following year, making a home in Allentown, where they had three children, David, Richard and Elizabeth.
In 1961, the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and relocated the business nearby. The Sayahs became an integral part of the Jewish community, making many lifelong friends. Sam sat on the board of Heska Amuna Synagogue and the Jewish Federation in Knoxville. He was known to give his company’s dresses as gifts to teachers, family and friends. Due to a change in the industry, Sam and his brother sold the business in 1972.
In 1974, the Sayahs moved to Dallas, where Sam’s younger brother Larry and his wife Debby lived. Sam went to work for J.C. Penney as the manager of quality control of women’s apparel for the Dallas regional office. Sam was influential at J.C. Penney for helping to establish the national standardization of sizing for women’s garments. He also was an innovator in utilizing computers at Penney’s. Sam retired in 1997.
The Sayahs were very involved in the Dallas Jewish community. Sam served on the boards of Jewish Family Service and ECHAD. He assisted with the resettlement of local Russian Jews and other new Americans. He traveled many times to Israel to see son David and Batia’s children and grandchildren, and he visited family in Turkey, where his parents were born and raised.
Sam was a voracious reader of all types of literature including the New Yorker magazine, which he read cover to cover since he was 16 years of age. He enjoyed all the arts. He was fascinated by electronics, always having the latest technological gadget. Sam researched his family genealogy before that became a popular pastime. Most of all, he loved playing with his young grandchildren. Sam was proud of his Sephardic heritage and of his family’s accomplishments.
Sam is survived by his wife of 67 years, Sue; his children David (Batia), Richard (Louise) and Elizabeth (Ron); his brother Larry; his sister-in-law Hannah; five grandchildren living in the States (George and Lauren Sayah; Ruthie, Jason and Jenna Nevelow), his 12 Israeli grandchildren; 60 great-grandchildren; 3 great-great-grandchildren; his nieces and nephews Jeff (Cheryl) Sayah, Jon (Julie) Sayah, Judy (Mark) Sage, Terry (Jeff) Zuckerman, Jacque (Homer) Esquila and their families; and cousins. Donations on Sam’s behalf may be made to Jewish Family Services and Congregation Shearith Israel.