Obituary: Samuel V. Schoonmaker III
Darien-resident Samuel V. Schoonmaker III passed away on April 23rd, in Naples, FL. He was 79 years old. Sam was born in Newburgh, NY, the son of Samuel Jr. and Catherine Wilson Schoonmaker. A distinguished student, athlete and lawyer, Sam will be remembered most for his gregariousness, sense of humor, generosity and warmth.
Sam attended Phillips Exeter Academy for a brief period and went on to graduate, second in his class, from the Lawrenceville School. He matriculated at Yale College, from which he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1958. While there, he was captain of the varsity tennis team, which he led to a 10-1 record. He was also a member of the varsity squash team, which finished first in the Ivy League and nationally, and sang with the Yale Glee Club. Sam went on to compete internationally in tennis, including once at Wimbledon, seven times in the U.S. Open (known then as “Forest Hills”), and four times in the U.S. Father Son Championships. In 2008, he was inducted into the New England Tennis Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Yale Law School in 1961, Sam started his career as a general litigator at Cummings & Lockwood in Stamford. He took a two-year sabbatical from law, following the death of his father, to serve as President of John Schoonmaker & Sons Department Stores in Hudson Valley, New York. Once back with Cummings & Lockwood, he was promoted to partner and later to managing partner. In 1996, he founded Schoonmaker & George in Greenwich, and remained with the firm past his fiftieth anniversary as a member of the Connecticut bar.
A distinguished family lawyer, Sam prided himself on providing his clients zealous, smart representation. He was appreciated and respected widely in the legal community for his combination of boldness, integrity, empathy, keen intellect, and common sense. Sam was the first chair of the Connecticut Bar Association's Family Law Section, chaired the American Bar Association's Family Law Section, and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He is best known in legal circles for the legislative initiative known as "No Fault Divorce,” which replaced the several hundred-year-old fault-based system. In 2014, the Connecticut Law Tribune awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sam's life was marked by his dedication to excellence in whatever he pursued. Whether in law, athletics, politics or community service, he always committed his time and talents to the benefit of all. His greatest passion in life, however, was his family, and he enjoyed regaling them with stories from his youth, watching and coaching their sports, and cheering on the Yankees and the Rangers together.
Sam passed peacefully, surrounded by his beloved wife of 49 years, Carolyn, and his two sons, Sam and Eric. He is also survived by his sister Barbara Hill; grandchildren Janse, Ella and Frederick; daughters-in-law Andrea and Anne; brother-in-law John Hill; niece Catherine Conlin; nephew Jack Hill and numerous extended family members.
A memorial service will be held at Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien on May 19th at 11am, with a reception following at Wee Burn Country Club. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Huguenot Historical Society, 88 Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY 12561, or to another non-profit of one's choice.
— by the Family