Sam Poss was fascinated with finding out how things worked, having once taken apart a Tickle-me Elmo to modify its actuator, the mechanical device that moved and controlled the toy.
“Always tinkering with something, always trying to learn how things worked and what made them tick,” Chris Poss recalled of his son, who was slain a year ago Sunday.
“It wouldn’t be unusual for me to come home from work and find his computer torn apart all over the living room and by the time it was bedtime, it would be back together working more efficiently than it had before,” he said.
The 47-year-old Poss said he wants people to remember his son on the first anniversary of his death for who he was and not for the horrific way in which he was killed – allegedly at the hands of two other teens, including one his son had considered a friend.
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One of his accused killers, Dakota White, allegedly lured Poss by asking him to help fix his computer and offering to pick him up. White, along with Brandon Warren, whom the family did not know of until Warren was named a suspect, allegedly strangled and stabbed Sam Poss in White’s car.
The pair allegedly then dumped his body in a ditch near a swamp off a dirt trail near Branchview Trail and Addison Lane not far from where Warren lived. A cross marks the lonely spot where the body was found. White and Warren, who have pleaded not guilty, are pending trial on murder and related charges.
“I want people to remember the 18 years of giving and caring and being here,” said Chris Poss, who works in information technology at Houston Medical Center. “ I don’t want people to focus on the tragedy.
“The tragedy is a big deal and it sucks and it hurts and it’s horrific,” Poss said. “But we had 18 beautiful years with a wonderful person, and that’s what I want people to remember: his goofiness, his sense of humor, his willingness to help. That’s the important part.”
Tickle-me Elmo was just one of the many things taken apart by Sam Poss over the years to figure how they worked. “It was just interesting to see how things work was kind of how his mind was,” Chris Poss said.
His son’s love for computers evolved in a similar way. He’d tinker with computer games to find out how they worked and then modify them to either make them easier or to add more levels.
Sam Poss was comfortable in his skin.
“He would just grab whatever socks were available to put on with his shoes and didn’t care whether they matched, were the same style, same color, just didn’t care,” Chris Poss said. “He knew who he was and didn’t care what anyone else thought about that.”
And for most people, that was an instant draw.
“People can kind of sense that confidence,” Chris Poss said. “One of the reasons that people liked him is you knew what you were getting. There wasn’t anything false about him.”
His grandmother, “Nana” Judy Poss interjected, “He was just a unique kid.”
His often mismatched socks caught the attention of Andy Hursey, the Perry High School band director. Hursey once asked him about his socks and afterward declared a Sam Poss Day. On those days, which happened a couple times a year, all band members wore one short and one long sock, or otherwise mismatched socks, his dad said.
Poss, a 2016 Perry High School graduate, was the captain of the drum line his senior year. He joined band in sixth grade and was among eighth-graders chosen to perform with the high school band.
He also liked to go barefoot.
“At the funeral, we said, come as you are, wear mismatched socks, wear no socks, however you want to honor Sam, you honor Sam,” Chris Poss said.
Judy Poss interjected, “Some of my friends came barefooted.” More than 900 people attended, his dad said.
“He cared a lot about other people, and he tried to help them if they were down or something,” his grandmother said. “Sam was always smiles. If you look at all these pictures, they’re all smiling.”
Except for the ones when he was trying to be serious, added Chris Poss. But even in those photos, his son was joking around, he said.
The family didn’t realize all the lives Sam Poss had touched until after his death and people shared their stories. One young man told the family that he was thinking about committing suicide until Sam Poss had asked him how he was doing and expressed genuine concern, Chris Poss said.
“He was very empathetic,” Chris Poss said. “He could definitely tell how other people were feeling.”
For Chris Poss, the sense of loss of all the opportunities his son had ahead of him is hard to take. Sam Poss had aspired to follow in his dad and grandfather’s footsteps to serve in the U.S. Navy to earn money for college. He had a good plan, said his dad, who served in the Navy for 11 years.
“And just him not being there to be able to talk to and just goof around, or play video games, or watch movies,” Chris Poss said. “I mean that’s how we bonded; that’s how we did stuff.”
Chris and Sam Poss were tight.
For six years, they’d gone together to Dragon Con in Atlanta. Chris Poss said he just couldn’t go this year without his son, but he asked their friends to remember Sam Poss at the convention.
The family did something similar for his son’s birthday in June. More than a dozen family and friends gathered at a movie theater to view the latest in Pirates of the Caribbean movies because the series was one of Sam Poss’ favorites.
“We just enjoyed pop culture, geek culture — all of that,” Chris Poss said. “That was kind of what we did.”
The family also created the Sam Poss Memorial Scholarship Fund for promising band students. T-shirts that are designed to remember Sam Poss are sold to raise money for the fund. A benefit was also held.
“I think it helps, in that knowing Sam, he wouldn’t want us to be sad,” Chris Poss said. “He’d obviously get it. But he’d much rather us just remember him fondly with a smile as opposed to tears.”
His dad says he’s not quite there yet.
“We want people to remember Sam, so I love seeing people I don’t know in a Sam shirt,” Chris Poss said. “It really helps to see that.”