March 2003
Vol. 4 No. 3
You may not know him by sight, but you’ve likely seen his name around town or heard about his generosity. He’s a man with vision who’s made a difference through contribution--contributions that still today, help him carry on without his beloved Rose, the love of his life who he married over 70 years ago.

Sam Stein, 95, is one amazing man. But he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not about him, but rather what he and Rose created together.

“We did everything together--we were a team, partners in every sense of the word,” Sam said. “She was not only my inspiration, but Rose stood by me, literally, and helped build our business while also raising the family. We also believed in helping others, particularly those in need, so we focussed our efforts on children and seniors.”

Their list of contributions is mind-boggling, and at one point consisted of over 35 organizations between San Diego and Sandusky, Ohio where they owned and operated their own business for 30+ years before selling to Oscar Mayer. Locally their involvement includes the Vista Hill Foundation (serving children and adults with developmental disabilities), Children’s Hospital (where they donated funds to build an Emergency Room and Trauma Center), Elizabeth Hospice, The Scripps Research Foundation (where their contributions helped create the Alzheimer & Research center), and the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UCSD.

Innovation, vision, and giving are simply part of Sam’s make-up. “When I see a need, I fix it!” Sam said with a smile. Apparently so because back in 1939 as a coffee salesman making calls to restaurants, he saw how poorly and un-uniformly hamburger was being handled and came up with an idea.

“We uniformed the sizes, put a paper layer between the patties and Rose and I became the entire assembly team,” Sam remembered. “We started the business with $23 and an ice cream scoop that Rose used to make the burgers, then passed them on to me and I flattened them. We made about 200 burgers an hour by hand, but when we sold the company we had ten machines doing the work, each producing about 4K patties an hour!”

While most would think of hiring food service employees to help with the business, Sam’s innovative ways thought otherwise and instead he hired engineers once he was able to afford some outside help.

“We had such demand for product that increasing our volume became our real need,” Sam recalled. “I figured engineers could help us build the innovative machinery to meet these needs, so that’s what we did.”

It was a concept that obviously worked well because the Steins became multimillionaires after the Oscar Mayer buyout. And as innovative as their business was, it is their vision and giving to fill a need, that is likely to be what will long be remembered as the Stein legacy.

“The most important things in life are family, friends, happiness, and helping those in need,” Sam says. “Staying involved and contributing is what makes life worth living.”

Although Sam admits that early on in his retirement, he’d literally roll out of bed into the golf cart and spend much of his time on the links, he firmly believes that one needs meaningful activities you can contribute to in order to really enjoy retirement.

“I remember begging employees not to retire early not just because they were good workers but because so many who did would suffer health problems within six or seven months by not being involved in something -- people just wither away without contribution.

“Retirement used to be the ‘reward’ but is it really?” Sam asked. “If people retreat, disenage and don’t have anything to occupy their mind then their not involved in life and that seems to be where the trouble starts,” Sam shared.

Certainly Sam has plenty of projects he’s involved in among his many charitable contributions. And he claims that’s what makes him happy to see the wonderful work they’re doing, while also paying tribute to his wife’s memory.

Although Rose died over three years ago after a long illness, it is Sam’s hope that their contributions in aging research and the innovative work being conducted at the Sam and Rose Stein Institute on Aging at UCSD will make a difference in this field in years to come.

“We’re learning so much in the field of aging,” Sam said. “It’s not just about living long, but being healthy and mentally alert, too. People who live longer today seem to be physically active, mentally involved, and have an interest in life and what’s going on around them.”

Sam is certainly still involved in life and with a family of two children, eight grandchildren and nineteen grandchildren, it’s easy to see why he still works out every other day at the gym, keeps his mind stimulated by attending lectures, keeps his spirit healthy by continuing to contribute -- all so he can keep on living and making a positive difference.

Don’t miss my next column on the UCSD Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

Kelly Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified
AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of a
nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With It?" For column
ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126 web:

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What's Age Got To Do With It?