Obituary: Samuel Holtsberry Sturm

Samuel “Sam” Holtsberry Sturm, former Kansas Ninth Judicial District Court judge, passed away surrounded by family on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, at Wesley Woodlawn Hospital, at 92 years old.

Sam Sturm
Sam Sturm

He had been married to the love of his life, Betty Lou Dufriend Sturm, for 71 years. Sam was born Oct. 6, 1923, in Bartlesville, Okla., to Samuel and Virginia Sturm. He was the youngest of the 10 Sturm boys. He graduated from Stillwater High School in 1940, and went on to college at Oklahoma State University, where he was a member of the golf team. He left OSU in 1942 to join the U.S. Navy and serve in World War II. He was an Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class and served as a member of a crash and rescue crew. He was stationed at the Hutchinson Naval Air Station and the Newton Air Station Auxiliary Field. It was during his time in the service in 1943 that he met his wife, Lou. The two were married in October 1944. Upon his discharge from the Navy in 1945, he finished his college education at Wichita State University and went on to law school at Washburn University, graduating with a Juris Doctorate in 1952.

Upon graduation, Sam returned to Lou’s hometown of Newton. He was elected as a probate, county and juvenile court judge in 1952, and held that position until 1961. He was then elected as a district court judge for the Ninth Judicial District, covering Harvey and McPherson counties, and served until he retired in 1987.

After his retirement, he served as a special assignment judge for the state Supreme Court, hearing cases all over Kansas. Sam was an accomplished jurist. During his career on the bench, he served as the president of the Kansas Judges Association, was on the Attorney General’s Judges Committee, served on the President’s Committee on Traffic Safety for the United States and was on the steering committee for the Law and Psychiatry Institute at The University of Kansas. He served as the chair of the Kansas Bar Association’s family law section. He also attended the White House Conference on Children and Youth in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of President Eisenhower and published many articles on domestic and juvenile law issues. His views on domestic and juvenile law issues was the focus of a national feature article in Power Magazine.

He served on the Board of Directors of Bethel College and in a variety of other volunteer roles in Newton and the surrounding community. But Sam would tell you that nothing on his resume mattered as much as his family.

Sam was preceded in death by his parents, siblings and a son, Samuel “Sammy” Sturm.

Survivors are his wife, Lou, of the home; two children; Jeff Sturm, Newton, and Lou Ann (Jack) Sturm Ritchie, Wichita; seven grandchildren, Lindsey Sturm, Wichita, Camille Sturm, Newton, Courtney Sturm, New York City, Alex Sturm, Wichita, Sam (Anna) Ritchie, Wichita, Dr. Cole (Dr. Jamie) Ritchie, Lawrence, and Daniel Ritchie, Lawrence; and four great-grandchildren.

The memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, at First Church of the Nazarene, 1000 N. Main Street, Newton, followed by a reception at the church. A private interment will follow at a separate date. Memorial contributions may be made to Newton Presbyterian Manor.

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