Longtime owner of Ace Desert Hardware in Twentynine Palms Samuel Kodish passed away peacefully at home in Oakland on Nov. 8, 2018. He was 99 years old.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Sam lived a life of adventure in his early years. Bored with school, Sam caught a freight train from Indio at the age of 12 and headed east looking for adventure. It was the height of the Great Depression and work was hard to find; working in restaurants helped him get by.
Sam’s experience of being homeless and on the road inspired his lifelong compassion for people who were down on their luck. He quietly gave second chances to many.
When World War II hit, Sam joined the Merchant Marines, where his cooking skills landed him a job in the ship’s galley. Sam soon was promoted to Chief Steward.
He served on several voyages, often coming under fire as ships convoys transported troops and wartime supplies. Sam received a U.S. Army certificate of commendation for his skill at making food supplies last during a particularly long and perilous voyage.
Sam met the love of his life, Harriet Shafron, at a USO concert. They married in Chicago in 1944 and established residence in Los Angeles. The couple moved to Twentynine Palms in 1953, where Sam started a crankshaft grinding business at a storefront on Twentynine Palms Highway.
The town was growing, and Sam and Harriet were able to buy land and establish an auto parts store and garage at 5152 Adobe Road. The business is still going strong today as Desert Hardware, 65 years after the couple set roots down in Twentynine Palms.
Sam and Harriet loved Twentynine Palms. When, in the 1960s, the Lyons Club had a vision of lining Adobe Road with palm trees, they asked Sam to lead the project. For many years Sam led the annual Lyons Club Pancake Breakfast, keeping the pancakes and bacon flowing. At the age of 99 he could still flip a pan of eggs without breaking a yolk. Sam loved music, and when he wasn’t entertaining friends on his 1983 Yamaha Electronic Organ or telling a bad pun, he would usually be humming a tune.
But mostly, Sam was a hardware man. The “store” was the center of his long, active life.
He loved to meet the customers there, always with a ready smile and a helpful bit of DIY advice.
Even after the couple moved to Yucca Valley in 1990 intending to retire, Sam continued to work at the store. Sam finally moved to the Bay Area in 2013 to live near family, bringing the organ, store files, and computer with him. Sam was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Harriet, four siblings and his parents. He is survived by his daughters, Susan and Janet Kodish, and daughter-in-law Dorian Newton.
In keeping with Sam’s nature, the burial will be private. A gathering to remember Sam is planned for January in Twentynine Palms.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that contributions be made to the Salvation Army or Copper Mountain College.