DANVILLE — The very last thing Rev. Bryan Sampson did before he suffered a fatal fall was to get up on the roof of his home and hang the Christmas lights.
He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone, friends and family members said.
“He was hanging the Christmas lights for me,” said his wife of 37 years, Jessica.
The Rev. Sampson, 59, of Danville, was the pastor of Danville Evangelical Church.
He fell from the roof of their home Sunday after bending over to hook the Christmas lights to the gutter and died Tuesday evening from his injuries, his wife said.
The parents of two sons, Christopher and Daryl, the Rev. Sampson and his wife also operated the Yorkshire B&B, a bed and breakfast in Danville. He also operated his own business, Sampson Window Repair and Handyman Service.
'I knew I was going to marry him'
The Rev. Sampson grew up in Baltimore and began learning and doing carpentry work at age 12, his wife said.
The two of them met in 1982, also the year the Rev. Sampson became a Christian, and they were married the same year, his wife said.
“The day I met him, I knew I was going to marry him,” she said.
The Rev. Sampson graduated from Liberty University in 1996, and was a church pastor in Edgemere, Md., for a time, then served as pastor at Cedar Grove Church of the Nazarene for four years before beginning what would be eight years as pastor at the small Danville Evangelical Church.
It was the historic house that became their bed and breakfast that brought the Sampsons to Danville, Jessica Sampson said.
The couple had read an article about a house in the historic district for sale, she recalled, and “we just felt like we needed to come to Danville.”
'He just drew people to him'
Her husband was witty, caring and a true gentleman, and he never did anything without considering how it might affect her, Jessica Sampson said.
“He just drew people to him,” she said. “Everybody just wanted to be with him. They felt comfortable with him. He just had a smile and a laugh that just drew people in.”
The Rev. Sampson was also a Baltimore Ravens fan, loved the couple’s three dogs and was an avid reader — typically reading several books at once, Jessica Sampson said. He also loved fish, and kept several aquariums at home, she said.
'He's the best of the best'
His younger brother, Steve Sampson of Myrtle Beach, S.C., said Bryan was the oldest of three brothers in their family. Their dad was a steel worker and also ran a home-improvement business.
“Big brothers are hard to come by, and he’s the best of the best,” he said.
While they didn’t get to see each other much in recent years, they kept in close touch, Steve Sampson said. And just a couple of weeks before the Rev. Sampson’s fatal fall, the three brothers — including youngest brother Keith, a missionary — had a rare get-together with their parents.
Steve Sampson said he’ll be staying in Danville for a time to finish up the jobs his brother had in progress for his business.
'He wanted you to know Jesus'
The Rev. Sampson’s close friend, Dave Ramsay of Danville, said the two first met at Cedar Grove Church of the Nazarene.
“He was fun. Three of my sons and I worked for him, off and on, over the years,” he said.
The Rev. Sampson would do anything for people, and he always seemed happy, Ramsay said.
“He would take people with drug problems and mentor them, try to get them clean, introduce Jesus to them,” he said.
Danville Evangelical Church member and pianist Alex Hull said the Rev. Sampson largely held the pastor job without pay. He said he was a good friend and a good person, and also gave him a job in his business.
“He gave me a job when I needed one,” Hull said. “He taught me an awful lot.”
Fellow church member Heather Hoyt said the Rev. Sampson was very accepting of others.
“It didn’t matter who you were or what your house looked like,” she said. “He wanted you to know Jesus.”