About Sam

Conti: A man who could move mountains.

by Jane Sims, February 1998

A memorial service for Sam Conti, the “gentle man who could move mountains” for the John Gordon Home, will be held Sunday. Conti, 46, executive director of the hospice for people living with AIDS and HIV-related illnesses, died Thursday night from complications that developed after elective surgery.

Close friend Betty Anne Thomas, executive director of the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, remembered him as a mountain mover who was committed to making life better for AIDS patients.

“Sam saw what needed to be done and simply did it. Sam was not somebody who ever looked for accolades. He quietly and very effectively moved things forward,” she said.

She met Conti eight years ago when his partner was dying of AIDS. “Sammy has been very much a part of my life in many ways. He was a colleague of mine, a very dear, dear friend and someone I loved.”

The new John Gordon Home, which opened on Pall Mall Street last year, “would never have happened without his tenacity and his passion and his hard work.”

Conti was one of the founding members of the John Gordon Home, starting as treasurer in 1993, then becoming executive director in 1994. He was also treasurer of the Ontario AIDS Network.

Conti was one of the keys to making the hospice the only facility in Canada specifically built for HIV and AIDS patients, a national model. He was a leader in convincing the Health Ministry to pay for 24-hour staffing at the home in October 1994. Until then, it had been served mostly by volunteer workers.

He also convinced Queen’s Park to provide money to build the new home.

Last year, it was his idea to approach Orchestra London to stage Interiors at the new facility before it opened.

Just last month, he was at a meeting of city council’s community and protective services committee to lobby for funding for a healing garden for the John Gordon Home, complete with therapeutic and meeting rooms. He got the money from the city and the Ivy Foundation. “He was the epitome of what I think everyone would strive to be. His integrity, his gentleness, his passion and compassion are hallmarks of who Sam was,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Conti’s death “is a tremendous loss to the AIDS movement in London and provincially.”

George Jansen, chairperson of the John Gordon Home board of directors, said Conti’s commitment to the cause made him “someone you couldn’t say no to. He had a vision, he had charisma, he had charm,” he said. “Rarely did people say no to him.”

The memorial service is planned for Dufferin Hall, 445 Dufferin Ave., at 1 p.m. Funeral arrangements are private.