We Remember Sammy Skobel for his strength and passion for empowering the blind. Skobel lost his sight in the beginning of his life and at the end – his memory.
Nothing stopped him from living a life with love, family, roller derby’s and hotdogs. He beat the odds and went on empowering the blind.
Skobel who owned Hot Dogs Plus in Downtown Mount Prospect, passed away at age 92 five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.
His son Stephen Skobel had this to say about his father:
“He was a firm believer that one’s limitations should never dictate their outcome in life“
When he was five years old he contracted scarlet fever and became legally blind. He was completely blind at the end of his life. He enjoyed athletics growing up on Maxwell street in Chicago close to the Coliseum.
It was there that he found a passion for roller derby as a teen. This sport he mastered later in life. In high school he was a track receiving scholarship offers from colleges – these offers were taken back when they discovered he was in fact blind.
His son Stephen remarked:
“Nowadays, they would potable give him a better scholarship”
Breaking into the professional roller derby would prove difficult too. Skobel earned a place in a roller derby team and used a magnifying glass to read the final paperwork in a telephone booth – an executive of the team saw him struggling and rejected him as a team member.
He was fortunate enough to earn a place in a Chattanooga team in Tennessee, but he had to serve as equipment manager, cleaning skates before this was on offer. The coaches saw him skating before and after practice and decided to let him try.
The opportunity became a 29 year career – where athletes were basically celebrities. Skobel went on to win World Championships and most valuable player awards. His biggest achievement was beating world record speed in a roller derby. He met many celebrities such as Tony Bennett, Debbie Reynolds and president Jimmy Carter.
At a dance he met the love of his life, his future wife, Acrivie. She remembers how he was tired and sat most of the night until the final song when he asked her to dance. Three months later they married. They had two sons – Sam JR and Stephen.
Skobel retired from roller derby and opened Hot Dog Plus in 1967. The restaurant gave many students their first jobs. The restaurant was sold in 1987.
The Skobel’s established the American Blind Skiing Foundation in 1970. This helped hundreds if blind skiers. Skobel spoke to children at local schools about believing in their dreams and all they can achieve.
Skobel not only shared his experiences with physically disabled but also minorities and girls – who were disadvantaged at the time.
Lets all contribute towards empowering the blind