Samuel Gene Speciale, known to many as Sam, was born April 22, 1944, in Highland Park, Illinois, and died unexpectedly November 19, 2022, at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Sam lived science to his core, always voicing “healthy skepticism” in any situation. He had no hesitation to explain how things worked from the mechanical, physiological, or anatomical standpoints, earning the name “Dr. Science” from his friend and future wife, Linda.
Sam graduated from Charlotte High School in Rochester, New York, in 1962, during which time he knew he wanted to become a scientist. He received a New York State Regents Scholarship to attend Colgate University and received his AB degree with a major in biology in 1966 and entered the Department of Pharmacology at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine as a graduate student in September of 1966. He was a US Public Service Trainee for four years and then received an NIH Predoctoral Fellowship. Upon receipt of his PhD, he received financial support for post-doctoral research in the Lyon, France, laboratory of Professor Michel Jouvet, a pioneer of sleep research. Not long after returning to the US, Sam began doing research at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, as an NIH employee. In September of 1978, he was hired by internationally known Dr. Howard (Howie) Roffwarg, Head of the Psychiatry Department Sleep Research Lab at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where he met his future wife, Linda. Sam did sleep research, Alzheimer’s research, and Parkinson’s research for 25 years, in addition to teaching some classes in the medical school. He published numerous papers and received awards and commendations for his work. After retiring in 2003, Sam decided he didn’t want to leave science, so he returned to NIH in the National Institute of Aging (NIA) as an administrator for aging research. He retired again in 2008 when he and Linda moved to Asheville.
Sam’s intellectual curiosity was intense, and he had many interests, especially music, art, photography, film, experimental theatre, running, hiking in the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and the mountains of North Carolina, camping, world travel, and even square dancing with the Asheville-based Folk Heritage Smooth Dancers. He was also a dedicated volunteer with the NC Arboretum, Buncombe County Democratic Party, and the Folk Heritage Committee. Sam’s last two days were most joyful spent in the company of his brother Larry from Florida.
Sam was preceded in death by his parents, Samuel G. Speciale Sr. and Beatrice Marie Pero Speciale, and is survived by his wife, Linda K. Smathers; brother, Louis (Nanda) of Fair Haven, NY; brother, Lawrence of Jacksonville, FL; sister, Susan (Richard) Antenozzi of Rochester, NY; sister, Barbara McCutchen of Asheville; step-daughter, Kaylyn (Richard) Groves of Chattanooga, TN; step-grandchildren, Mary-Alice and Maxwell Groves of Chattanooga, TN; aunt, Bessie Speciale of Rochester, NY; and uncle, Donald Pero of Rochester, NY; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews. The family is grateful for the kind and attentive care provided by the Givens Estate Health Center staff.
A green burial will be held in the Carolina Memorial Sanctuary and a celebration of life will be held later. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations in Sam’s name to Parkinson’s Foundation, https://www.parkinson.org/.
The care of Dr. Speciale has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Candler and an online memorial register is available at “Obituaries” at www.wellsfuneralhome.com