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Samuel B. Muñoz

Samuel B. Muñoz

September 4, 1935 - March 17, 2024

September 4, 1935 - March 17, 2024

Samuel B. Muñoz, a longtime resident of Tempe Arizona, passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 17, 2024, at the age of 88 surrounded by his family. A retired teacher and a forever-young presence in the community, Samuel enjoyed being of help and service to others and seemed a natural to live for many more years to come.

Known as Sammy and Sam to family and friends, and by Mr. Munoz to his students, Samuel was Born in Florence, Arizona, on Sept. 4, 1935. His family moved to Miami Arizona when he was 4 years-old, where he would go on to become an all-star basketball player on the storied Miami Vandals Basketball Team at Miami High School. Upon graduating from Miami High School in 1953, he moved to Tempe to attend Arizona State University, graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in 1957 and going on to earn his Master's Degree from ASU a few years later. During his years at ASU Samuel proudly served in ASU's Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program during his undergraduate years and tutored students while earning his master’s degree.

He embarked on his teaching career at Ritter School in Tempe, while starting a family of two daughters, Margie and Cathy, with his then wife Leona, his high school sweet-heart and fellow ASU graduate. He would go on to serve as an outstanding teacher in the Tempe Elementary School District for more than 30 years, teaching 5th, 6th and middle-school grades at Ritter and Mitchell Elementary Schools, Gilliland Jr. High, and Meyer Elementary School.

Highlights of his teaching career included producing patriotic and fairytale themed musical plays as part of his classroom literature and arts curriculum, which his former students fondly remember to this day through their posts on his Facebook page. He also enjoyed coaching his students in playground sports activities such as flag-football, basketball and jump rope contests. He created a variety of curriculum for his classroom, such as academic competitions and dramatic literature readings to help engage his students in the joy of learning.

During his retirement years, Samuel returned to his love of basketball by joining the Senior Olympics Basketball team in Tempe, where he continued to be a standout. After he retired in the late 1980s, he enjoyed traveling throughout the United States and Europe with his long-time companion Phyllis. He also served on the Arizona Boxing Commission alongside his brother Al Muñoz through the 1980s and early 2000s.

In his mid to later years he enjoyed spending time with his daughter Cathy’s family in Mesa near his home in Tempe and he also enjoyed visiting with his daughter Margie’s family in Valencia California, establishing a special bond with his grandchildren who lovingly referred to him as Grandpa Sammy. He enjoyed seeing his grandchildren excel in sports, basketball, dance, drama, art and music. He was later blessed with 15 great-grandchildren.

He tapped into his writing talents during his retirement when he authored his book The Summer of 53: The Bullion Plaza Years, published in 2005. He later produced a short film documentary So Dear to the Miners in 2013 recounting the history of Miami Arizona. His articles have also appeared in the Journal of Arizona History. He enjoyed being active in his community and he volunteered his teaching talents in the Phoenix area schools over the years and played a big role in creating artwork and scripts for various student productions.

Samuel was an enthusiastic volunteer at the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum in Miami Arizona, where his books recounting his experiences of growing up in the copper mining town of Miami are on display. He was a student at Bullion Plaza School during his grammar school years where grew up with a love of learning, developing a special interest in grammar and history, which he imparted to his students during his teaching years. As a boy, he also enjoyed sports, participating in the school plays and pageants, singing in the choir, attending catechism instruction with his friends and receiving his First Communion in the Catholic Church. During and following his college years, he and his young family attended the Lutheran Church in Tempe near the ASU campus where his daughters were christened. In his retirement years he and his companion Phyllis enjoyed attending sermons at the Methodist Church during their time together. Since 2010 he joined his daughter Cathy and her family each Sunday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Mesa, Arizona. He also enjoyed occasions of attending the church with his daughter Margie and her family during his visits to Valencia, California. He loved exploring his ancestry with his family throughout his life and was delighted to find strong Spanish royal lines. His natural faith in God helped guide his life and that of his family throughout his journey on earth.

Samuel was truly a renaissance man, filled with artistic, athletic, and musical talents. He was a guardian angel to his entire family, thoughtful, kind and generous with all of his progeny, as well as with his friends, colleagues, and extended family. He was honored and admired by his peers, students, and community leaders over the years for his outstanding work in the field of education.

Most of all, Samuel was a devoted family man, a strong patriarch of his family who imparted his wisdom, support, and encouragement to all his family members, the hallmark of his life and his lasting legacy. He was beloved by all and will be greatly missed.

He was preceded in death by his brothers Mike Muñoz and Al Muñoz and his sister Bertha (Muñoz ) Sanchez, and by his parents Agripino and Guadalupe Muñoz and by his longtime companion Phyllis Bartel. He is survived by his daughters; Marjorie (Ron) Clark and Catherine (John) Newell, his grandchildren; Bonita (Mike) Garma, Christopher (Rachelle) Clark, Brian (Shawna) Newell, Michael (Christina) Clark, Kirk (Kara) Newell, Lynda (Josh) Lucero, and Lisa Clark, and his great-grandchildren; Madisyn Newell, Amelia Noelani Garma, Michael Garma, Austin Lucero, Maximillian Clark, Emily Clark, Zachary Clark, Logan Lucero, Tyler Clark, Benjamin Garma, Sammy Clark, Kincaid Newell, Kennedy Newell, Shaylyn Newell, and Kollins Newell. He is also survived by the mother of his daughters, a sister-in-law, cousins, and several nieces and nephews and their children.

Memorial Services will be held on April 27, 2024 at 10 a.m. at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 8840 N 61st Avenue, Glendale, AZ 85302 with the interment to follow at 1:00 p.m. at the West Resthaven Cemetery 6450 W Northern Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301.


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