Sam Morreale, native of Colorado and 13-year resident of Dumont, passed peacefully at his Denver home with his family at his side. Sam and his wife Cyndy were the creators and owners of Mangia! from 2004 to 2007, as well as Svago and Sam Whiskey’s Tavern, formerly located at the Indian Springs Hot Springs.
Sam was a member of the Columbine Garden Club, the Idaho Springs Historical Society and a staunch supporter of the Clear Creek Democrats. Sam and his wife were known for hosting several events, garden tours and fund-raisers at their home, Happy Thought Ranch, which Sam lovingly restored in 2002. A famous silent film director, Joseph August, originally owned Happy Thought Ranch in the ’30s and used it as a retreat and working trout farm.
Sam was born on Jan. 24, 1943, in Colorado Springs, the son of an Army chaplain. His formative years were spent in Europe and the Far East, where he was exposed to cultural, artistic and religious diversity at an early age.
He once owned a teak farm in Nicaragua and hitchhiked from Belize to Colorado Springs when his Triumph TR4 broke down. He had traded land for the car, and was well known for his land and property trades. In the ’60s and into the ’70s, he imported wigs and was a hairdresser. He said he sold a wig to famous hooker Blaze Star, who he met on a street corner in Baltimore, his imported wigs in a paper bag.
He owned the town of Guffy in the ’70s, selling it for $50 down and $5 a month to many different people.
He prided himself in creative problem solving and making things prettier.
Living well to him was an attitude; it had nothing to do with money.
During his 30s and 40s, with the demand of two young children, Sam turned his attention to the artistic renovation of derelict properties and made a name for himself as an urban redevelopment specialist, including the rehabilitation of four blocks between 26th and Colorado in Old Colorado City, and many historic properties in Colorado Springs and Canon City. He was responsible for the creation of five parks during his lifetime.
In 1982, he owned The Well at Brush Creek, a clothing-optional hot springs where he met his future wife, Cyndy, while floating naked on an inner tube. From 1986 to 1989, he built a botanical garden on the Caribbean island of Saba, which now houses a five-star hotel.
He co-authored a book, “The West Indies in 22 Days,” with Cyndy in 1987; owned a dinner boat, The Island Princess in Sarasota, Fla., in 1990; and in 1994, he and Cyndy headed back out West with a year-long stop in Taos, N.M., where he painted on Ledoux Street, hung out with local artists, painted with his macaw Ducky swinging outside the adobe studio and rekindled his love for painting.
After a blitz build with Jimmy Carter on the Cheyenne Lakota Sioux Reservation, a camping trip across British Columbia and down through the Northwest, he and Cyndy came back to Colorado and looking all over the U.S. for a place with a pond or a stream — finally found his beloved Happy Thought Ranch. He loved making things more beautiful and every detail counted.
A gourmet chef, he loved to entertain. He was known at Svago and Mangia! for shaking hands of customers and wanting everyone to feel their dining experience was special. He often was heard saying, “A restaurant isn’t just a place with good food. It’s a theatre, an experience for everyone to enjoy. Otherwise, why bother going out.”
A diagnosis of two serious blood diseases, myelofibrosis and myelodysplastic syndrome, stopped Sam’s creativity in its tracks, but not for long. With great fatigue, once he figured out how to paint without having to lift his arms, he was back in the saddle again. Since December 2009, he painted more than 55 pieces and his newest works are big, bold and colorful, much like his life canvas has been.
“I always believed in being constantly busy, and work, work, working, but this disease has slowed me way down and makes me wish I’d slowed down sooner in my life,” Sam said. “I’m enjoying my days more and not minding too much that everything has come to a screaming halt. I want my time to count and when it can’t, I want to check out gracefully and leave my space to the next guy. I’m anxious to see what the next adventure is and so hope I’ve lived my life well enough not to come back as a damned cat!”
He will be deeply missed by his wife, his former wife, four children, three grandchildren, his brother, and many, many friends.