For the Great Outdoors to be a true asset, people have to get out into it.  Sam Mavrakis can be considered one of Wyoming's premier advocates for making that happen. Born June 18, 1918, in Monarch, Wyoming, to Greek immigrant parents Harry and Georgia  Mavrakis , Sam graduated from Sheridan High School in 1937. He attended BYU on a football scholarship, where he was a varsity football player and wrestler.  In January 1942, Sam was drafted into the Army and spent WWII in the Pacific Theater where  he served as a Staff Sergeant with the 211th  AAA Battalion.  He was honorably discharged in December 1945. He and his older brother, Paul, opened the Ritz Sporting Goods Store in Sheridan in 1947. The store closed in December 1998. Sam married Goldie Williams in 1953 and they had two children, Tami and Sam Paul.  Goldie passed away in 1980. In 1990 Sam married Lynn Borg  Burnham; they still reside in Sheridan.  Sam recently retired from operating Sam's Flies and Rods out of his home.


From 1947 through 1998, Sam not only sold hunting, fishing, and camping equipment; he also dispensed enormous amounts of professional advice, encouragement, and personal goodwill. He genuinely want ed  people  to have as good a time as possible while they were out enjoying Wyoming. Whether it was equipment, a lesson in how to use it or use it better, or directions to a new place to use it, Sam was always ready to help.  He conduct­ed  fly tying and casting classes and demonstrations at the store on a  regular  basis. It was  not  unusual to see him in the alley and occasionally on  Main Street  helping a customer with casting techniques.  Over the years, his customers ranged from the  kids down  the  street  to  Wyoming Governors, U.S. Senators and  Representatives, Presidents and Vice -Presidents, and the Queen of England .


Sam was far-sighted enough to  know that simply getting folks outdoors  wasn't enough.  The outdoors had  to be enticing and suitable for people to use. To  that end, he was a staunch advocate for Wyoming lands, fish, and wildlife. Sportsmen came into the store to discuss legislation and  policy with Sam, who  in turn  rallied support for or against the various issues. Many petitions had origin in the Ritz, and Sam initiated several letter- writing and phone-call campaigns to legislators. An all-around advocate for wildlife in the state, Sam was active for years in organizations that supported big game, small game, and fish.


His generosity was as well known as his willingness to help. He personally contributed to many causes , among them Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Foundation for  North  American Wild Sheep, and  Pheasants  Forever. He also  regularly donated his custom built fly rods to various organizations for their fundraisers. On a more personal level, local kids who came into the Ritz with broken hunting or fishing equipment always left with  more than they brought in, and  they were seldom charged. This was not just a goodwill gesture  on Sam's  part.  He was  building the next generation of hunters and anglers.


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Sam Mavrakis
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