Sam J. Granato

April 29, 1936–January 24, 2024

On Wednesday, January 24, Sam J. Granato, Bainbridge Island’s first mayor, co-owner of the Historic Lynwood Theater and Bainbridge Cinemas, and noted llama enthusiast, passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 87.

A second-generation Italian American and San Antonio native, Sam began his career in social service administration for the state of Texas after receiving his BA and MA with honors from the University of Texas at Austin. In the late 50s and early 60s, Sam led the expansion of child and family services into rural areas of west Texas.

His commitment to, and success at, re-thinking social programs to better reach underserved communities eventually landed him a role in the Johnson administration in Washington, D.C. There, Sam played a key leadership role in designing and operationalizing the national Head Start Program, a pioneering family and communitycentered approach to comprehensive early childhood development for low-income families.

Sam went on to lead family service programs for multiple states, including Oregon, Alaska and Washington, before settling down on Bainbridge in 1978 with his wife and fellow advocate for children and families, Sharon Osborne. Sam and Sharon were married in 1974 and would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August of this year.

A man of many hats, Sam was well known to Islanders as a business and community leader. His two most noteworthy ventures were the 1980 establishment of Pheasant Run Llamas—one of Washington’s first commercial llama farms and a core memory for many Island youth who often fed apples to the llamas on the way to the ferry—and his 1982 purchase of the much-loved Historic Lynwood Theater. He would go on to build and develop the Bainbridge Island Pavilion and Bainbridge Cinemas and co-own a group of independent movie theaters across Western Washington. He also served in various local and regional volunteer positions, including as Board Member and Chair of Bainbridge Performing Arts, Board Member of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce and Board Chair of the International Llama Association.

In 1990, as the newly elected mayor of the city of Winslow, Sam endorsed a citizeninitiated resolution to annex unincorporated Bainbridge Island, which passed in 1991. As the city of Bainbridge Island’s first mayor, Sam led initiatives to strengthen the new city, with an emphasis on inclusive community engagement.

Sam loved to travel the world with both family and friends, keeping a table of mementos collected along the way to remember each of his grand adventures, including particularly memorable trips to China, Egypt, Tanzania, and the Middle East. He was also, notably, a 45-year Seahawks season ticket holder; a voracious reader (often raising his head hundreds of pages into a book to comment that he just realized he had already read it); a long-time supporter of HIV/AIDS research and support organizations; a loyal consumer of the worst Hallmark movies known to man; and a dedicated amateur genealogist, taking great pride in his Italian heritage and extended family.

Most importantly, Sam was a father of seven, a grandfather of five, and as of October 2023, very proudly donned the moniker of great grandfather. For 45 years, from ages 22 to 67, Sam was father to a child under the age of 18.

Many hats indeed, but the dad hat, he wore the longest and most proudly.

Sam is survived by his wife, Sharon Osborne; his brother, Joe Granato; six children, Tracy, Tammie, Rebecca, Steven, Jamie, and Adam; five grandchildren, Kyle, Caitlin, Manu, McKenna, and Evan; and his great granddaughter, Laua’e. He is predeceased by his eldest son, Bret Marshall Granato.

A private memorial will be held this spring at Pheasant Run Llamas, followed by a public viewing of one of Sam’s favorite movies (we promise not one of the Hallmark ones) in his honor on Saturday, March 30 at the Lynwood Theater.