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Harford flooding victim was 'a good man,' dedicated to his church and charity

A temporary fix at the bridge on Route 136 where people were swept away by flood waters on Aug. 31, 2018.

Friends and fellow church members described Daniel Samis as a religious man dedicated to his church and charity endeavors.

Maryland State Police said Samis, 67, of Abingdon, was killed Aug. 31 when the sedan he was driving was swept away near Calvary Road and James Run in Churchville.

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Samis’ body was recovered the next morning in Harford County as officials worked to clean up more than $2 million in estimated damage from raging waters that displaced families, washed away bridges and peeled asphalt from roadways.

Police said Samis was in a sedan when it got stuck on a bridge over Broad Run in rushing water that rose up to its roof.

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Donna Samis said her late ex-husband served in the U.S. Air Force for 29 years and retired as senior master sergeant.

Daniel Samis attended the St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Abingdon for at least 17 years and was a regular Sunday lector who read Scripture to parishioners, according to Jim Sullivan, a deacon at the church.

“He was a very religious man,” Sullivan said, “with a strong dedication to faith.”

Sullivan said Samis did a lot of charity work, including volunteering for the church’s charity bingo dinners. He would sometimes wake up extra early on Sundays for a 7:30 a.m. reading at the church, Sullivan said.

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“He was a good man,” Sullivan said. “He worked hard at being a knight and a lector.”

Fellow parishioner Lee Eder said Samis was deeply involved in the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal service organization associated with the Catholic Church.

Daniel Samis was killed last Friday when the sedan he was driving was swept away near Calvary Road and James Run in Churchville.
Daniel Samis was killed last Friday when the sedan he was driving was swept away near Calvary Road and James Run in Churchville. (Family photo / HANDOUT)

Samis became the grand knight, or leader, of the 300-member chapter associated with St. Francis de Sales Church in 2008.

Eder, who took over as grand knight the following year, described Samis as a “very good” leader who did a tremendous amount of charity and fellowship, enough to earn a “star council award” for his Knights of Columbus council, which is the highest distinction any council can achieve.

Eder said Samis raised money for the John Archer School, a school for students with disabilities in Harford County, among other charitable endeavors.

Keith Marchiano, who has known Samis for more than a decade through the Knights of Columbus, called him a “really nice guy” who could always be called on to help out with a volunteer project.

Rescue workers are searching in Harford County for people swept away in flood waters as county executive declares a state of emergency.

“When I first joined the Knights of Columbus, he was one of the first people to welcome me and make me feel like I was part of the council. He really cared about the Knights of Columbus and definitely cared about his family,” Marchiano said.

In particular, Marchiano remembered Samis working hard to raise money for the Courage Lion, a program that helps children in crisis. “He was passionate about it,” Marchiano said.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Saturday at St. Francis de Sales Church.

Melissa Lehew died trying to save a man from flash flooding in Harford County, all the while trying to save herself from alcoholism.

The flooding that took Samis’ life also took that of Melissa Lehew, 34, who reportedly stopped with her boyfriend to try to rescue Samis from the fast-rising floodwaters.

Her boyfriend, Kyle Bowman, said Lehew told him, “We have to do something.”

They stopped to help and tried to reach Samis with a rope, but the rushing water swept Lehew into the creek. Bowman, along with a search party of family and friends, found Lehew’s body Monday afternoon in a nearby quarry lake.

Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger and Christina Tkacik contributed to this article.

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