A longtime member of the community is being remembered by many who knew her as someone who spent much of her life trying to help others.
Charleen Samuels, 89, died Tuesday at Oklahoma Heart Hospital North.
As recently as April 7, Samuels stepped onto the podium during an event to honor District 11 Choctaw Tribal Councilor Bob Pate, making jokes and wishing him well, along with one of her granddaughters, Jenessa Dugger.
Last December, she worked to help collect donated items for veterans at the Talihina Veterans Center.
She also worked tirelessly to try and reach her goal of shipping 2 million coupons to members of the U.S. military stationed around the world, so the service members could use the coupons for discounts. She had collected around 1.7 million coupons prior to going into the hospital, said her daughter, Sharon Martin.
Even after her mother entered the hospital for a heart-related procedure, coupons were still coming to her home, dropped off by those who were trying to help her reach her goal, Martin said. Stopping by the Samuels home, Martin’s daughter, Michelle Dugger, noticed a box on the porch.
“She said “Oh, what’s this?” Martin said. Opening it, they found someone had dropped off some more coupons — one last attempt to help her mother reach her goal of 2 million coupons.
Samuels came by her support of the military naturally. Her husband, the late Wesley Samuels, served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army in World War II and parachuted behind enemy lines during D-Day as part of the Normandy Invasion.
Wesley Samuels would later serve as the District 11 Tribal Councilor for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Tribal Council.
During her coupon drive, Charleen Samuels clipped and shipped hundreds of thousands of coupons to U.S. military bases in places as far away as England, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Japan. The coupons were used by members of the U.S. military and their families.
“I never dreamed it would turn out like this,” Samuels said last October. She said she started the project with the Daughters of the American Revolution, but continued it on her own.
Samuels said at the time she had been mailing 16,000 coupons every four to six weeks.
“I get so much enjoyment out of this,” Samuels said.
“I’ve gotten letters from wives who really appreciate it,” she said, referring to wives of service members. “This is one thing I can do to help our service people.”
By last December, Samuels embarked on a mission to help those who had already served the nation and were living at the Talihina Veteran’s Center.
“They are in the winter of their lifetime,” Samuels said in December.
“To see those veterans, some of them can’t hardly get around. They are in wheelchairs and have to be pushed.”
Samuels said she helped the veterans in memory of her husband.
“This is one thing I can do to help veterans,” she said.
Samuels is survived by her daughter, Sharon Martin, and her son, Don W. Samuels, and her grandchildren. A daughter, Rita Kaye Samuels, died at birth in 1947.
Funeral services are set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Bishop Chapel of Memories in McAlester, with the Rev. Daniel Miller officiating. Graveside services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday with the Rev. W.O. Mowery officiating.