Samuel Hunter “Sam” Darnell, a 22-year-old Business Management graduate from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga passed away on the 22nd day of January, 2024 from injuries sustained in a car accident.
His mother’s precious one and only boy, Sam was born August 11, 2001 to David and Marcheta Darnell from Kelso, Tennessee who adored their son and with whom they shared many fun adventures including “boy trips” with his Dad to 27 states and many National Parks to riding the rails to zip lining and going to Universal Studios on vacation whenever possible. He was preceded in death by his grandfathers Mickey Darnell, Ray Winton, and his dog Max.
In addition to his parents, Sam is survived by his immediate family: aunt Laurie Winton with whom Sam shared an extremely close bond; grandmothers Doris Winton and Betty Darnell; aunt Lisa Crabtree, cousin Megan (Nathan) Green; half-sister, Tiffany (Steven) McKee; nephews Gage and Garrison McKee; uncle Larry (Sharon) Darnell; and three of the best friends anyone could ask for: LaRika Howard, Laura Vance, and Elizabeth Barnes Kelley. He also leaves behind a host of friends and an exuberant four-legged sibling, Boo who will miss him greatly.
Asked to carry Sam to his final resting place here on earth as pallbearers are friends Stewart Barnes, Jake Kelley, Stephen Yatsko, Will Clark, Mason Mullins, and Dalton Brown. Honorary pallbearers are Steven McKee, Gage McKee, Garrison McKee, Nathan Green, and Cooper Green.
Visitation with the family will be Thursday night, January 25th from 4:00 to 8:00 pm and prior to the funeral service on Friday, January 26th which will begin at 1:00 pm, both at the Washington Street Church of Christ. Wes Collum, J.B. Cox, and Charles Abernathy will preside over the service. Burial will be in Cedar Hills Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Higgins Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Sam loved trains from the time he was a small child and enjoyed going on many train rides around the country. His ultimate dream was to work for the Chicago Transit Authority improving the rail system for which he’d already researched, analyzed, and put together extensive plans. He could picture solutions in his head from a very young age, drawing mazes and maps (without erasers), so what was a little improvement to the rail system in Chicago?
A few of Sam’s favorite activities: Spending quality time with his friends; making others laugh; handing out candy when trick or treating (instead of just receiving it); colorful Christmas lights and watching Polar Express at Christmas every year; eating at Taco Mamacitas and Sushi Train; Black Friday shopping; goofing off and loving on dogs; going to concerts—his favorite artists being Lady Gaga, Sugarland, P!nk, and Nicki Minaj. He also had a deep affection for Dolly Parton such that he purchased a specialty plate for his car to support her Imagination Library.
Some of his favorite things: bright, bold colors; flip flops/sandals; red pandas; the unique and unusual; raw onions; cooking; fashion; Harry Potter (TeamHufflepuff!); Into the Woods—both play and movie; The Golden Girls and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. TV shows; the color blue; his Papa’s roasted red potatoes and onions; and his aunt Laurie’s cream cheese pound cake.
Sam loved entertainment, from movies to music to live theatre productions at the local theatre in his hometown, which he and his mother attended anytime a show was playing usually twice. If you would like to make a donation in memory of Sam, his family prefers those be made to the Carriage House Players, PO Box 916, Fayetteville, TN 37334.
Sam was always a truly good friend; kind, loyal, intentional, openhearted, and generous in telling all those he loved how he felt about them. He had a talent for connecting and encouraging people, especially those others discounted, overlooked, or ignored, and his family has already heard stories from so many of how deeply he impacted them. Sam had the best smile in the world and when he hugged you, it was with his entire being. His final act of friendship and care for others was in his decision on January 3rd to sign up to be a donor hero and save lives. Greater love hath no man than this…