2017-08-23 / Features

Jack Kerouac Benefactor, Sampas, Dies In Connecticut

This is the home at 92-21 134th St. in Richmond Hill where Kerouac had been living with his mother from 1950 until 1955. It was here that he wrote Maggie Cassidy and The Subterraneans.PHOTO JASON D. ANTOSThis is the home at 92-21 134th St. in Richmond Hill where Kerouac had been living with his mother from 1950 until 1955. It was here that he wrote Maggie Cassidy and The Subterraneans.PHOTO JASON D. ANTOSJohn Sampas, the brother-in-law of legendary author Jack Kerouac, who controlled the late author’s literary assets, died at his home in Greenwich, Conn.

Mr. Sampas spent most of his life fighting legal battles over the legitimacy of the will of Kerouac’s mother, Gabrielle, who outlived her son by four years. That will was judged a forgery, but the estate of Kerouac’s late wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, was validated by a court order more than a decade ago.

Sampas was 84 and had lived most of his life at 2 Stevens St., in Lowell, Mass.

Mr. Sampas died last Thursday, just one day after conclusion of his last battle, the auction of the long-lost “Joan Anderson Letter,” written by Neal Cassady to his buddy Kerouac and credited with inspiring the spontaneous writing style Kerouac would adopt for “On the Road.”

Kerouac had been the childhood friend of Mr. Sampas’ older brother, Sebastian, a poet and writer who died while serving in World War II. Kerouac stayed close to the family and ended up taking his friend’s sister, Stella, as his third wife, in 1966.

The couple was living with Kerouac’s mother in Florida when Kerouac died in 1969 at age 47.

Books and lawsuits have debated the subsequent events of Kerouac's estate. The Sampas version is that Stella Kerouac became Gabrielle’s caretaker, and when Gabrielle died in 1973, a combination of her estate and rulings by a Florida judge left Kerouac’s literary estate to Stella Kerouac. When Stella Kerouac died at 71, in 1990, her will left the Kerouac properties to her siblings, who appointed John Sampas as their trustee.

One of the most valuable manuscripts in American letters was the original scroll of “On the Road,” which Kerouac typed on a single sheet of teletype paper, 120 feet long. The scroll had been left by Stella Kerouac to her younger brother Tony Sampas who then brought it to auction in 2001 and sold for $2.4 million to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

The New York Public Library has Kerouac’s letters, journals and original manuscripts.

Mr. Sampas never married, and he is survived by an adopted son, John Shen Sampas of Greenwich, Conn.; his twin sister, Helen Surprenant of Dracut, Mass.; and more than a dozen nieces and nephews.

Jack Kerouac lived in Queens for a portion of his life residing in three different locations the first being in Ozone Park and the latter two in Richmond Hill. These locals are mentioned in many of Kerouac's books including On the Road and his various poems and short stories.

The poet Allen Ginsberg frequently came to visit him in Queens and mentioned in his memoirs, “His [Kerouac's] room was on the second floor with a window that faced the street. One day he gave me a writing lesson in that room. He sat me down at his typewriter and taught me spontaneous prose; straight to the page as it comes into your mind. Jack was brilliant. He was a genius”.

–Jason D. Antos


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