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Millard H. Rock

June 15, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • This photo of Sam Rock and his family was taken at Christmas 2005, the familys last Christmas together before the death of Sams wife, Brenda. Pictured, front row, from left, are Tracy and Elizabeth; and back row, Kristi, Sam, Brenda and Sarah.
Submitted photo

STATE LINE, Pa. — Millard “Sam” Rock raised four daughters and was a father figure to many over the years. His sunny disposition reflected his boundless faith, which he was eager to talk about with everyone he met.

“He influenced so many people’s lives,” said daughter Kristi Lisech of Stafford, Va.

Life did not get off to an easy start, though. Sam was the youngest of seven children and named for his father, Millard Harry Rock.

When he was 2, Sam and his mother both were diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanitarium.

His mother died at the sanitarium, and Sam was treated there until he was 4. Then, he and a couple of his sisters went to live at the Milton Wright Home near Greencastle, Pa.

Sam recalls his father coming to visit the orphanage once. His father died in a car accident when Sam was 13.

It was at the orphanage that Sam was introduced to several things that would become his passions — Christ and fly-fishing.

His oldest brother, John Rock, would go to the orphanage and take Sam fly-fishing, which is where he developed his love for the sport.

The nickname “Sam” developed in high school. The story he told his family was that he got in trouble with a substitute teacher one day, and when he was asked his name, Millard said “Sam Jones.”

When presented to the principal as “Sam Jones,” even the principal couldn’t help but laugh. Millard was known as Sam from then on.

Sam graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 1957. One of his sisters, a registered nurse, paid for him to go to barber school in Philadelphia.

Before Sam settled down and established his own barbershop, he and a friend twice hitchhiked out to California, where Sam did some modeling and worked as a barber in Hollywood for several years. He also worked in New Orleans and as a crew member on a boat in Florida.

On a trip home from California in 1967, Sam met Brenda Bennett through mutual friends.

“He fell in love and knew it was his last trip back to California,” said daughter Sarah Barnes of Chambersburg, Pa.

Sam moved back east and worked at a Hagerstown barbershop before opening the Venice Barbershop in the Venice Hotel in 1968, followed by The Razor’s Edge Barbershop in 1970.

He was drinking in a local bar one afternoon in 1972 when his friend, Bobby Harmon of Clear Spring, found him and said he had something to tell Sam.

Bobby had become a born-again Christian, and Sam was so moved by Bobby’s story that he left the bar and followed Bobby’s lead.

“Sam, he was more than a friend. He was like family, like one of my brothers,” Bobby said.

They became regulars at the Fisherman’s Net, a coffee shop in downtown Hagerstown that was a Christian hangout.

“Just about all their friends came to the Lord at the same time,” Kristi said. “Instead of partying at the bar, they’d take us girls to the Fisherman’s Net.”

At first, Brenda thought Sam was crazy, Sarah said.

“A month later, after he was saved, he married her because he wanted to be a husband to her and a father to her girls,” Kristi said.

Brenda had two daughters, Tracy and Kristi, whom Sam raised as his own. Tracy was 12 and Kristi was 8 at the time.

“He considered us definitely his daughters,” Kristi said. “He’s the only dad we knew.”

He married Brenda, whom he called “Bea,” on June 17, 1972, but there are no wedding photos because Sam forgot to put film in the camera, Sarah said. He thought Brenda sounded too formal and preferred nicknames, Kristi said.

For their honeymoon, the couple drove a VW bus to Montana, along with their German shepherd, picking up hitchhikers along the way. Sam got to do a lot of fishing, with Brenda content by his side, reading her Bible.

Daughters Sarah and Elizabeth “Liz” then followed, with a 22-year age difference between the oldest and youngest. In time, there would be seven grandchildren.

“Dad had unconditional love,” Sarah said. “It didn’t matter what we did. He just loved us. I couldn’t have asked for a better father.”

“Everything they did, they did because they loved us,” said Liz, who lives in Marion, Pa.

Many knew Sam through The Razor’s Edge Barbershop in Longmeadow Shopping Center, which he owned for 40 years. The shop included space for the Broadcaster Shop, where Sam sold fly-fishing supplies.

“The barbershop was his occupation,” Sarah said. “It was never his passion, but he was thankful the Lord allowed him a good job to provide for his family.”

He loved the social contact with people the shop provided.

The final move was to Fountainhead Plaza in February 2010. His connection to customers goes back several generations, his daughters said.

“Someone said he was the only person who cut his hair for 35 years,” Sarah said. “With haircuts every six weeks, you build a relationship. He was full of life. He knew everybody.”

In addition to the barbershop, the couple started Crab Haven, a carryout seafood business near the Longmeadow barbershop, with the motto “The crabs you buy from us today slept last night in the Chesapeake Bay.” The business was open from about 1972 to 1973, Kristi said.

“Kristi and I loved eating all the seafood,” said oldest daughter Tracy Burger of Greencastle, Pa.

“Dad always said he and his business partner, Freddy Star, ate up all the profits,” Kristi said. “We loved it when he brought hard-shell crabs and shrimp home for us.”

In 1973, Sam and Brenda moved into their State Line home, where Sam lived until his death. They were married 34 years before her death from cancer in November 2006.

The Rocks were charter members of Berean Bible Fellowship Church that was formed in State Line in 1975. Sam stocked the gospel tract rack in the church, paying for the tracts himself.

“Well, he was just full of life,” Bobby said. “He was very passionate about his faith in Jesus Christ. He was very generous, very giving. He’d pick up hitchhikers. People who were down and out, he’d give a gospel tract and money. He would help them and have joy in doing it. He was a lot of fun, jovial.”

Sam also had a tract rack in the barbershop, and even gave them to the girls’ boyfriends.

“He always stocked the tracts,” Sarah said. “Those were his baby. He had them everywhere. There were boxes in his car.”

Two ministries that were dear to his heart were prison ministry in Washington and Cumberland counties, which he did for 35 years. He also enjoyed the summer week his church ran Camp Tohiglo in Mercersburg, Pa., and he got to teach young campers to fly fish.

Sam’s daughters said several people have gone into ministry as a result of Sam’s influence, including a hitchhiker he picked up.

His personalized license plates were Salm 34 and Salm 37, his favorite Bible verses.

In early December 2012, Sam was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an incurable disease that comes on quickly.

He was tired as a result and quit working, but still was able to go fishing and to Sarah’s for dinner most evenings. Treatment included chemotherapy and weekly blood transfusions.

His 75th birthday party in April was a joyful celebration, with stories shared about him.

“He had the funniest sense of humor,” Kristi said.

Throughout his illness, Sam prayed with many of his doctors and medical staff.

“He always had hope because he knew his life here was temporary,” Sarah said.

“I think so many people will remember Dad’s laughter,” Tracy said. “He just loved to laugh, and his laughter could fill a room.”

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Millard H. “Sam” Rock, who died June 2 at the age of 75. His obituary was published in the June 4 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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