Felix "Freddy" Sampayo, a Cuban native who was a noted Toledo civil engineer, a lover of art and music, and a well-known supporter of the symphony and art museum, died Tuesday of complications of bile-duct cancer. He was 73.
"He was a fabulous human being, he really was," said Red Stanley, a friend and neighbor. "He was great in the arts and a great collector of art and a friend of the museum."
Mr. Sampayo recently joined the Apollo Society at the Toledo Museum of Art, Mr. Stanley said.
According to the museum, the Apollo Society since 1986 has contributed more than $4.1 million to acquire some 46 works of art, from periods ranging from ancient to modern times.
Mr. Sampayo and his partner, Gerald Runkle, had an annual Christmas party that was "just full of all kinds of his friends," Mr. Stanley said. "He basically appreciated educated people who knew the arts."
"He was a real gentleman. This guy was first-class all the way. It was a joy just to talk to him and Jerry," Mr. Stanley added.
Mr. Sampayo liked to travel, especially to Paris, but Madrid and Murano, Italy, also were favorite destinations, Mr. Stanley said.
Mr. Sampayo, a longtime resident of Scottwood Avenue in the Old West End, was brought to Toledo after a 1956 meeting with Jack Townsend, who was then the dean of arts and sciences at the University of Toledo.
At the time, Mr. Sampayo was a first-year student at University of Havana.
Mr. Townsend and his wife, Florence, offered to sponsor him to attend UT. Mr. Sampayo initially planned to decline the offer, but when University of Havana was closed, he changed his mind.
He graduated from UT with an degree in engineering in 1960 and received a master's degree in civil engineering in 1963 from Purdue University. He also completed coursework for his doctorate at Purdue in 1965.
After returning to Toledo in 1965, Mr. Sampayo began working for Jones & Henry Engineering, Ltd. In 1967, he accepted a position with Malcolm Pirnie Engineers, in White Plains, N.Y.
He returned to Jones & Henry as an associate engineer, specializing in wastewater treatment. He became a partner at Jones & Henry in 1976.
He was the author of many technical publications in the wastewater field during his career. In 1982, Mr. Sampayo wrote a 32-page report regarding two case histories on filtration.
Mr. Sampayo became president of the firm in 1995, a position he held until his retirement in 2002.
He was also founding director of Hull & Associates, Inc., according to John Hull, the company's founder and chairman.
The firm was founded in Toledo in 1980.
"He was a good friend, mentor, engineer, and community leader," Mr. Hull said.
Mr. Hull added that Mr. Sampayo was the first person to hire him in Toledo.
Mr. Sampayo was known to have mentored young engineers throughout his career and also to have sponsored and helped to support young people in other professions.
Dr. Nickolai Talanin, now a dermatologist in the Washington area, credited Mr. Sampayo with much of his success. "He invited me to visit the United States in 1991," Dr. Talanin said.
"He asked me to come over for a year and I stayed with him for five years. At that time I worked for the Medical College of Ohio and he provided for me, so I wouldn't have been able to do it without his help."
The two had met on a train in Russia two years earlier and Dr. Talanin showed Mr. Sampayo around St. Petersburg. Dr. Talanin and Mr. Sampayo remained friends and talked almost daily.
"He was really a very genuinely nice and caring person in the sense that if you helped someone and they succeeded it would be good for him too in a good way," Dr. Talanin said.
"He was very much involved in Toledo life, arts and culture, and he was a very big fanatic of the Toledo Museum of Art -- that was his baby."
Mr. Sampayo also sponsored Dr. Talanin's cousin, Anya Krivelyova Robati, to come from Russia. She is now an economist in Atlanta.
There will be no funeral service, but a memorial celebration of his life is to be scheduled. Tributes are suggested to be donated to either the Toledo Museum of Art or the Toledo Symphony.