Ralph “Sam” Hamilton, 86, of Rantoul died peacefully Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., after a year-long battle with colon cancer. He will be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., with arrangements to be determined.
Sam was born March 21, 1933, the third son of Ralph and Margit Cherney Hamilton, in Charlevoix, Mich. Upon graduation from high school, he started his lifelong career in the Air Force.
He met his wife Fumiko “June” Shima at a dance at the Airman’s Club while he was stationed at Misawa Air Base in Japan and discovered a love that lasted for 60 years of marriage.
Sam was a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. In Vietnam, he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery. Sam retired from the Air Force at the rank of Senior Master Sergeant.
Following military service, he worked and also retired from Sears Roebuck in Champaign as personnel manager. He later helped open the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) veteran’s benefit office in Rantoul.
He is survived by three sons, Samuel (Susan) Hamilton of Jacksonville, Ore., Stephen (Paula) Hamilton of Champaign and Andrew (Teresa) Hamilton of Park Ridge. He was a proud grandfather of 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife, parents and both brothers.
Sam lived in Rantoul most of his life, where he and June raised three sons. Watching and playing sports was one of his many passions. From being a legendary Illini football season-ticket holder to playing and coaching a decade of men’s softball with his son in the Champaign Park District League.
His family admired his drive, determination and sense of humor. He had a talent of being able to discuss any subject under the sun and would always walk away learning something new. He loved to watch his children and grandchildren compete in sports, never missed a game and was often the first fan in the bleachers.
Donations may be made to Hospice.