Samuel Flint. Family photo

Samuel Flint decided the day he was diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease that he would end his life on his own terms.

Mr. Flint, a retired UPS driver, skilled barber and Vietnam veteran who was active in the South Portland VFW Post No. 832 for several years, died June 16 at age 76.

He was diagnosed in January 2020 with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease for which there is no cure. His daughter Laurie Cote said his illness had progressed in recent months. In early June, he decided on a date and took the medication that stopped his heart. Cote was by her father’s side as he took his last breath.

“Everything in the end was his decision … his way,” Cote said. “I selfishly wanted to keep him around, but I could tell. He said to me, ‘I’m tired.’ He said, ‘The masks are coming off. Everyone is living and I’m not. I’m tired.’ ”

Mr. Flint ended his life under Maine’s Death with Dignity law. Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill into law on June 12, 2019, making Maine the ninth state to allow people with terminal illnesses to end their lives. In 2020, there were 50 Mainers who met the requirements of the act, according to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services. Cancer represented 36 of those cases, while ALS represented three.

On the day Flint was diagnosed with ALS, he expressed relief for voting for Mills, Cote said.

“He said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ For the last year and a half, he never wavered,” Cote said. “In the end, that was his decision. He was grateful for that law.”

Mr. Flint grew up in Bridgton and attended local schools. Following high school graduation, he attended Hanson’s Barber School in Lewiston and worked in a local barbershop. He kept his license active until recently, cutting hair in his garage.

“For a six-pack, the uncles would go over, ‘Hey, Sammy. Can I get a haircut?’ He gave the best haircut – high and tight, a fade … whatever you wanted,” Cote said.

Mr. Flint enlisted in the Army and served during the Vietnam War. According to his obituary, which was published in Sunday’s newspaper, Flint went to Fort Benning, Georgia, where they were forming the 173rd Aviation Company. After arriving at Lai Khe in South Vietnam, the name was changed to the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company, the Robinhoods. Flint was a crew chief of what became known as one of the finest helicopter companies in Vietnam.

Following his discharge, Mr. Flint joined the VFW post in Harrison and became a charter member. He later joined the VFW Post 832 in South Portland. He served as quartermaster for a brief time.

Mr. Flint and his wife, Diana, were active in the VFW for many years until their doors closed in 2017. Cote said her parents volunteered in various capacities, including hosting benefits and organizing parades.

“I grew up in the VFW. They were always there,” his daughter said. “He had a big Chevy Silverado truck with an American flag on the side and a vanity license plate. Everybody knew it was Sammy’s. He was a very proud American.”

Mr. Flint was a UPS driver for more than 30 years. Cote said he had several routes throughout his career starting in downtown Portland. Near the end of his career, he delivered packages in the Sanford area. She said everyone knew his name.

“That was his deal. He loved everyone in Sanford and everyone loved him,” his daughter said.

Cote said Mr. Flint came into her life when she was 5 years old. Flint met her mother on his UPS route in Portland. He delivered every day to her office at National Hearing Aid.

“You get to know the name of your UPS driver. My mother just took it a little further,” Cote said, chuckling.

Diana Flint died unexpectedly in 2017. Cote reflected on the bond she had with her father, especially since her mother’s passing.

“When she died, we were thrown together in grief,” Cote said, breaking down in tears. “What developed in that three and a half years was this amazing relationship between us. Then, someone says … ‘Guess what Laurie, I’m going to take him now.’ So yeah, that’s where I’m at.”

Mr. Flint decided to end his life on June 16. In the two weeks before he died, Cote said, they spent time together and talked, a lot.

“There wasn’t a lot of bucket list stuff he could do at that point,” his daughter said. “That last weekend, I said one more time it’s not too late. He’s like, ‘Laurie. I’m just tired. Everyday things are starting to decline more and more.’ A couple things happened that he was a little embarrassed by. He almost fell over and he looked at me and said, ‘Do you understand?’ I was like yes I do, even though it was heartbreaking for me to let him go.”

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