In Memory: Sam Kiker

In Memory: Sam Kiker

Sam Kiker, Hilltop Amigo

Sam Kiker, Hilltop Amigo

It is with deep sorrow that we mark the passing of Sam Jackson Kiker, Jr., a cherished figure in the Terlingua chili cookoff community and beyond, who left us on February 21, 2024, at the age of 88. Born on July 16, 1935, in Brownwood, Texas, Sam, affectionately known as Jack to his family and friends, carved a path through life that was as varied as it was impactful.

From his early days on a farm on the west fork of the Trinity River to his tenure as a beloved educator and coach, Sam's journey was marked by a profound dedication to service and community. Yet, it was his post-retirement activities, particularly his involvement in the Terlingua chili cookoffs, that many will fondly remember.

Sam, a figure synonymous with the spirit of camaraderie and competition that defines the Terlingua cookoffs, brought his zest for life and a keen palate to the chili tables of West Texas. As a judge and a member of the Hilltop Amigos, Sam's presence at countless chili cookoffs was not just about evaluating the fiery concoctions before him; it was about fostering a sense of community, sharing laughs, and creating memories that would last a lifetime.

Beyond the cookoff grounds, Sam's life was a tapestry of dedication and love. From his early days as a star athlete and a soldier to his impactful career as an educator, and finally, as a pillar of his community in retirement, Sam embraced every chapter of his life with open arms. His role as a coach at Southwest High School and later as a Coordinator for the FWISD Office of Adult Education showcased his unwavering commitment to nurturing potential and fostering growth.

Sam's personal life was equally rich, marked by love, loss, and the joy of family. His marriage to Peggy Myrlene Markham in 1960 and the birth of their daughter, Katherine Diane, introduced him to the joys of fatherhood, a role he cherished deeply. The loss of both Katherine and Myrlene in quick succession was a profound blow, yet Sam's resilience and the support of his granddaughter, Krystal, and later, his second wife, Ann Hagman, and her extended family, underscored the strength of the bonds he formed.

In his final years, Sam's life was a testament to the importance of connection—be it through the simple pleasures of Sunday lunches with Krystal, engaging conversations with his sister Jane, or the joyous chaos of time spent with his great-grandchildren. His legacy, however, extends beyond these personal connections to the broader community he served and loved.

As we mourn Sam Kiker's passing, we also celebrate his remarkable life—a life rich in achievement, love, and a profound commitment to the communities he was part of. In Terlingua and beyond, Sam's legacy will live on, not just in the memories of those who knew him but in the spirit of camaraderie and competition that defines the chili cookoffs he loved so much.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Kiker Express Foundation, a fitting tribute to a man whose life was a ceaseless journey of service and connection.

Sam Jackson Kiker, Jr., may your memory be a beacon of joy and resilience for all who knew you and an inspiration for generations to come. You will be deeply missed.