Curtis A. Sampson

Sampson, Curtis A. Age 87, of Hector, MN, passed away, July 16th. Private Family Service and Interment commencing with Public Service to be held at a later date. Hughes-Hantge Funeral Chapel. 320-848-6297. Curtis Sampson compiled a long list of achievements during his 87 years as a businessman, philanthropist, community leader and father. He saved horse racing in Minnesota with his purchase of Canterbury Park. He built a string of multimillion-dollar businesses in his hometown of Hector, and he was a tireless volunteer for causes he cherished, but that's not what made him truly unforgettable. Curt, who passed away peacefully July 16 at his home in Hector, will be remembered for the joy he found in connecting with people throughout his life. Whether you worked in the boardroom at Communications Systems, Inc., or in the barn at Canterbury Park, you could always count on a warm greeting and heartfelt conversation from a man whose success was built with a smile. Born to Selmer and Sophie Sampson on July 6, 1933, Curt was the 8th of 10 children. He graduated from Hector High School in 1951, and the University of Minnesota in 1955. He married Marian Walter in Buffalo Lake in 1954 and they had four children; Sons, Paul (Karen), Randy (Susan) and Russ (Donnelle); Daughter, Susan Puchalski (Corey). After honing his business acumen at the U of M's Carlson School of Management, he took a public accounting job in Minneapolis, that lasted just three months. A small-town guy at heart, Curt returned to Hector to work for the phone company and would live there the rest of his life. He rose through the ranks of the finance department at Minnesota Central Telephone and Midwest Telephone Company, then founded Communications Systems, Inc., in 1970. Curt spent more than 50 years in the telecommunications industry, later forming North American Communications Corporation and Hector Communications Corporation. It was a fitting career path for a man who loved to make connections with people in all walks of life. Curt knew all the movers and shakers in the business world, but he also knew the names of every employee at CSI. His circle of acquaintances grew much larger at Canterbury Park, which he bought out of bankruptcy in 1994 with his son Randy and business partner Dale Schenian. The Sampson family started racing and breeding horses in the 1980s, when the trackthen Canterbury Downsbrought pari-mutuel racing to Minnesota. It shut down in 1992, leaving the state's racing industry on the brink of collapse. Curt risked a significant chunk of his personal wealth to finance the purchase from Irwin Jacobs, giving the track new life as Canterbury Park. Racing wasn't just another business to Curt, who genuinely loved the sport, the horses and the people around them. As chairman of the board, his personality and business philosophy helped guide Canterbury toward long-term stability. With Curt and Randy working side-by-side, the track earned a national reputation for its lively crowds, family-friendly atmosphere and cooperation between management and horsemen. Canterbury also provided a new outlet for Curt's gregarious nature. If he wasn't in the winner's circle with the family horses, he was working the grandstand, making sure every guest was having a good time. Curt's ability to connect on a professional and personal level further strengthened Minnesota racing in 2012. The relationship he developed with Stanley Crooks, the late chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, helped pave the way for a decade-long partnership with SMSC that increased the purses available to the state's horse owners. Curt honored Crooks by naming one of his thoroughbreds after him, and Chairman Crooks turned out to be Curt's all-time favorite horse. A multi-sport athlete in his youth, Curt's sturdy pitching arm kept him in baseball for decades. He played many years with his town team, the Hector Flyers, and began attending Twins fantasy camps in his late 50s. Curt baffled batters with his screwball and slider for another 25 years. When he was 77, he gave up just one hit over 4 2/3 innings at an exhibition game in Fairfax, facing a lineup that included former Twins Corey Koskie and Terry Steinbach. At the Twins fantasy camp in 2014, Curt, then 81, won the Cy Young Award for pitchers over age 50. Curt also received the the Minnesota Business Hall of Game and Small Business Man Of The Year Awards. Curt also got his pilot's license when he was 74, fulfilling a longtime passion for flying. As a father and grandfather, Curt enthusiastically attended youth sports events and served as a Boy Scout leader. Curt was also an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting and fishing, especially with his sons and grandsons. He was a conservationist, buying and preserving over 1,000 acres of natural habitat for generations to come. Curt was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame in 2012 and served with several business, civic and educational organizations, including the University of Minnesota Foundation, the Carlson School board of advisors, the Augsburg College board of regents, the Hector Kiwanis Club and a number of telephone industry boards. Curt will be missed by his family, friends, business associates and patrons at Canterbury Park, who always delighted in chatting with "the boss.'' He is survived by his wife, Marian and their 4 children and spouses; Sister, Ruth Stormo; Grandchildren Reene (Jay), Matthew (Jenna), Joseph (Sara), Rachel (Martin), Taylor (Georgia), Adam, Jack, Sophia (Fiancée, Tom Sievers), Luke (Jesse) Alaina (Josh) and Josh; Great Grandchildren Moe, Elliot, Isla, Ruth, Harrison, Mabel, June, Henrik. The family will hold a private service, with plans for a public celebration of Curt's life to be announced later. He was preceded in death by his parents and Brothers Aldin, Selvin, Ellsworth and Wayne Sampson and Sisters Mavis Layman, Alta Nelson, Marjorie Cooper and Maureen Kohout. In lieu of flowers memorials preferred to BLHS Schools, First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hector or the Canterbury Park Racetrack Chaplaincy.