Anyone growing up in Mount Prospect in the '60s, '70s and '80s knew the name Sammy Skobel.
And once they got a taste of his signature hot dogs, they'd come back to his restaurant in downtown Mount Prospect time and again. And then they'd get to know not only the name, but the man and his story -- how he defied the odds and worked to better others' lives in the process.
Sammy Skobel died Saturday at the age of 92. As the Mount Prospect Historical Society said when announcing his death on the Growing up in Mount Prospect Facebook page: "Sammy Skobel is one of Mount Prospect's most illustrious citizens and beloved residents. His inspirational story is one of our community's best-known tales."
And it's a tale worth sharing beyond the borders of the town he called home, because it highlights so much of what we all look to when good role models and examples get harder to find.
Skobel's story starts when he was a 5-year-old and a bout with scarlet fever led to him becoming legally blind. But that didn't stop him from enjoying various sports -- he was a gifted track athlete -- and it eventually led him to the roller derby. Despite some setbacks, he got on a team from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and that led to a 20-year career. He won a world championship and most valuable player awards. He set a world record for the fastest mile on roller skates.
After he retired, he opened Sammy Skobel's Hot Dogs Plus in Mount Prospect in 1967 and worked there until he sold it in 1987.
It was a favorite of all residents, but most certainly teenagers who loved the food and the great service from Sammy and his wife, Acrivie. Sammy also hired many of those teens to work at his restaurant over the years.
To give back to others, the Skobels established the American Blind Skiing Foundation, which helped hundreds of blind skiers learn independence and continues that work today. His son said Sammy would speak to children at local schools about overcoming obstacles and the power of believing in their dreams.
"He was a firm believer that one's limitations should never dictate their outcome in life," Stephen Skobel said. "Because of his own personal story, he focused on physical disabilities, but he would also speak with minorities and girls."
Meeting Sammy and to see his always smiling face was to be immediately lifted in spirit. He is being remembered by so many with ties to Mount Prospect, because he, as his wife, Vee, so eloquently put it in a story published in the Daily Herald Tuesday: "He was an amazing man. He was a legend of Mount Prospect."