Editor's note: Sam Armanino, a 2017 graduate of Humboldt State University and former intern, videographer and photographer at the Journal, was killed Aug. 31 in a mountain biking/trail clearing accident near Lake Tahoe. He was 28. A celebration of Sam's life will be held Sept. 23 at South Lake Tahoe Brewing Co.
Skiing before walking. Recognizing authority figures and challenging them immediately. Lover of both Dave Brubeck and Black Sabbath. Sam Armanino never shot down lox on a bagel. Linda Stansberry worded it so well, saying that he was someone you wanted to wow just so you could witness his vivacious laugh bursting from his gawking mouth to reveal the tiny gap in his two front teeth. You would often catch him in just-skinny-enough jeans, Vans, T-shirt and flannel combo, with a backward five-panel hat, skating around with his Canon DSLR, finding captivating stories in the nooks and crannies of the North Coast.
Sam's stories were often filled with typos or poor punctuation, which I had the honor of cleaning up before he sent them off. Aside from the minor errors, he dug into stories deeply until he hit bedrock, and even then, he continued to dig. His storytelling was so eloquent it kept you itching to dig further into the topic yourself, and kept me asking for creative writing advice. But stick a camera in Sam's paws and this is where all hell broke loose. His photos provided enough context you sometimes didn't need to read the piece that ran with them. I rarely hid from his camera lens; he had a knack for always making my worst look like my best.
Sam wrote for and was editor-in-chief for HSU's The Lumberjack, where he investigated the massive houseless student population, and stayed up into the early morning hours covering what the LJ staff thought would be a Clinton win until they quickly had to pivot. Sam interned for the NCJ, which eventually led to a brief and miserable stint as a crime reporter for the Times-Standard, until he gave that newspaper the finger and excitedly rushed back to rejoin NCJ in its marketing department. He covered Indigenous youth protesting outside of Wells Fargo, their arms dripping in black-dyed molasses to mimic oil to express opposition in the bank giant's financial support to DAPL, and the mysterious past of the Coral Sea, which earned him his first cover story for the NCJ, among many other intriguing stories.
For me, Sam showed what's to love about Eureka through the annual Taste of Main Street event. Sam was also my go-to partner in spur-of-the-moment decision-making, like making the drive to Hornbrook to again throw up a finger at Iron Gate Dam before turning around and driving home, all in one day. Sam played a role in a characteristic change in myself to challenge authority, and now I sometimes simply can't help myself in acting on that quality (thanks, Sam). There was always an exuberance behind his desires to expose controversial stories, but these traits were also strewn throughout Sam's day to day. There was perpetual stoke in all that Sam did and a drive to do more, always with loud music playing in the background.
As I write this now, I want to ask Sam to review it to make sure it flows well. The goofiest of goofs, the one to shave the back of my head, the one to stay in the boat on Hell Hole, the one to run the last couple dozen feet with me on my first marathon, the one who dreamt of café racers. You never cease to astonish me or make me laugh, and you will be deeply missed. Snap photos of where you're at.
Marisa McGrew is a long-time friend of Sam's. She is a Humboldt State University graduate and remained in the area to work as a fisheries biologist.