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Superman Sam, Super Hero, Dies at 8

Highwood 8-year-old and his family fought leukemia for 18 months.

Sam Sommer, 8, of Highwood died Saturday after an 18-month battle against leukemia.Photo courtesy of Congregation Am Shalom.
Sam Sommer, 8, of Highwood died Saturday after an 18-month battle against leukemia.Photo courtesy of Congregation Am Shalom.

Samuel Asher Sommer, known throughout the North Shore and far beyond as Superman Sam for the heroic battle he and his family fought for 18 months against leukemia, died Saturday at his Highwood home. He was 8.

Soon after Sam was diagnosed with refractory acute myeloid leukemia in June, 2012, he was given the nickname Superman Sam because of his love for superheroes. That is what he became through the rest of his life.

During that time Sam inspired 48 rabbis, 10 of them women, to shave their heads to raise money and awareness to fight pediatric cancer, according to an article published Saturday in the Times of Israel.

In October, Sam’s father, Rabbi Michael Sommer, shaved the head of Chicago Bear center Roberto Garza during Highwood’s Pumpkin Festival to benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s efforts to fight the disease.

At that time, Sam was in remission after a bone marrow transplant at Milwaukee Children’s Hospital where he received his treatment. It looked like he would survive. It was not to be as the cancer returned two weeks later.

“Then you have to sit your 8-year-old down and tell him he's going to die," Michael Sommer said to the Chicago Tribune Saturday. That is what Michael and his wife, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, had to do. “He was an amazing child,” Michael Sommer added.

People throughout the area, the nation and other parts of the world followed the story of Sam and the rest of the Sommer family on the Superman Sam Blog. The blog was created by the Phyllis Sommer to keep members of her congregation and others in the community informed. Phyllis is an associate rabbi at Congregation Am Shalom in Glencoe.

The blog painted a vivid picture of how Sam and his family spent their final hours together. “I had a terrible feeling,” Phyllis wrote about her observation of Sam’s condition Friday morning. A trip was made to the hospital in Milwaukee that day to make Sam more comfortable.

After dinner, friends and family left around midnight. Michael went to get some sleep while Phyllis sat vigil in the first watch.

“His breathing began to change,” Phyllis wrote as Friday turned into Saturday. “There were long pauses between the breaths. I caught myself holding my breath and the nurse and I exchanged a momentarily-frightened glance. We turned on the lights, we got Michael from upstairs.”

Michael and Phyllis Sommer were together with Sam again. “We held our child close,” she wrote. “He took one final breath. Sam was not alone for a single moment of his life. He died peacefully and calmly and quietly at 12:33 a.m. He was not in fear or in pain. And for that I am eternally grateful.”

Besides his parents, Sam is survived by his brothers, David and Solomon, his sister, Yael, and three grandparents, Marilyn Sommer, John Sklar and Sharon Sklar.

Funeral services are planned at 1 p.m. Monday at Am Shalom in Glencoe with burial to follow at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights.

Donations may be made to the Sam Sommer fund at Am Shalom.

jo December 16, 2013 at 02:11 PM
please.. please support st Jude's hospital.. be a monthly giver... do it for all these children.. NO MORE BALD BABIES.. my heart breaks for them all..
william savick December 16, 2013 at 05:43 PM
At 8 years old Sam probably was not too impacted when told he was going to die but it had a more profound affect on those who knew and loved him for they will be missing much more when thinking of the potential for a full and productive life they would have witnessed. RIP Sam, you were a brave little man .
Deb Bailey December 16, 2013 at 06:05 PM
My heart goes out to his family over the loss of this precious young boy. May he rest in eternal peace
Deborah Perry Monday December 16, 2013 at 06:16 PM
I feel for the parents and his friends. I will be praying for them.
Gert Dennis December 16, 2013 at 08:11 PM
MY PRAYERS ARE WITH THE FAMILY AND I PRAY THAT SAM WAS NOT IN PAIN AT THE END. FOR SUCH A LITTLE MAN HE WENT THROUGH SO MUCH---NOW HE IS RESTING AND HIS SUFFERING IS OVER-- MEMORIES WILL LINGER ON........
Bob Wilson December 16, 2013 at 08:22 PM
God Bless
M Smith December 16, 2013 at 10:09 PM
I just lost my Dad to Pancreatic cancer at 64. I can't imagine losing such a young loved one. RIP Samual, you are defiantly a superhero in my mind.
Sabino Pena December 16, 2013 at 11:17 PM
This article really broke my heart, telling that beautiful kid that he ´ll die ,would be the hardest words of my life ,don,t even know if i had the courage to . My regards for the parents and for enjoying the boy´s company for eight years.
Donna Inzalaco Oshatz December 17, 2013 at 01:53 AM
My heart breaks for you and your family....my deepest prayers for you all.
Terri Smith December 17, 2013 at 05:04 AM
I agree 100% with Jo.St Judes is a wonderful thoughtful caring hospital for sick children and relies on our contributions to let sick children stay there.I have been a Partner in Hope for several years and this is one charity that the money really goes where it is supposed to,RIP Superman Sam and God bless and be with his family
Nancy Nanas Lilangels Cintron December 17, 2013 at 07:05 AM
RIP LIL ANGEL... YOU WERE VERY BRAVE .... PRAYERS GOING TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF SUPERMAN SAM .. GOD BLESS
Petros Kouracles December 17, 2013 at 07:07 AM
God loves suoermen, your in good hands SAm you will now live in peace for ever. from another Superman
Bonni Copes December 17, 2013 at 07:57 AM
See you later Superman Sam <3
jlg1076 December 17, 2013 at 08:05 AM
God needs hero's too. Rest in peace little buddy
Steve Miller December 17, 2013 at 08:54 AM
May your loss be for a blessing.
Anthony Chavez December 17, 2013 at 09:23 AM
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen
Mike Grommet December 18, 2013 at 12:18 PM
To those who support St. Jude, a thank you is simply not sufficient, but it's all I've got. My daughter just completed treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She wouldn't be here today without the outstanding care provided by St. Jude. It's a debt I will never be able to repay.

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