"My husband and I went to three or four of his shows," she said. "I don't think we ever saw him as a musician.
"We didn't not support him, but I think we wanted Sam to find a line of work where he'd feel fulfilled."
He enrolled in WVU's school of journalism and made the dean's list in 2004 and 2005, but his interest in journalism waned. He was more interested in the college radio station and his own rhymes.
Sam played at Morgantown open-mic nights and worked his way up into hosting one at the popular 123 Pleasant Street, but while he had carved out a nice niche as a rapper, he wasn't doing much with his studies.
In 2005, he returned home, where he worked various jobs and muscled his way onto the Charleston music scene -- no easy feat for a hip-hop performer. Along with Bryan "B. Rude" Rude in The Rabble Rousers, Sam became a local club regular. He frequently played the Empty Glass and the Blue Parrot and also shows in Huntington, Morgantown and Pittsburgh. He recorded several albums and seemed to be steadily building a credible music career when he died.
"Life seems sorta like a tease, snuggie ..."
Sam's death shocked the local music community; more than 600 people attended his funeral.
To help themselves grieve, Sam's family released a collection of his songs on a special CD.
"Hearing his voice again was cathartic for me," Karen said.
She'd also come to appreciate her son's music better, but the often vulgar lyrics didn't make it entirely accessible. She also felt his music created an incomplete picture of Sam.
"Sam and I had talked about writing a children's book," Karen said. "I'd hoped it might lead to him producing poetry books. It was really startling to me how beautiful some of his lines were."
She started putting together a book based around some of Sam's lines and a few of his robot drawings. Then, in 2012, at the West Virginia Book Festival, she met Ashley Teets of Headline Books, a small book publisher in Terra Alta. Teets invited Karen to send her what she had and said she'd take a look at it.
"Robot Rhymes" impressed her. The publisher emailed her back and said, "This is a book."
"Awesome is as awesome does ..."
Karen said "Robot Rhymes" has done really well so far.
"It's been selling," she said. "And I've got some good press. 'Robot Rhymes' was given the Mom's Choice Award Silver Medal for children's books from ages 9 to 12. I'm hoping to get it in Tamarack, and, past that, I don't know."
Karen said she has no idea if she'll actually make any money from it, but earning a fortune was never really the intention. It's about remembering Sam and passing along the brighter parts of his life: his warmth, humor and creativity.
"My oldest son has two children," she said. "They were really too young to remember a lot about Sam, and this book is a way for me to approach Sam in a positive way."
In the meantime, Karen said she's written a follow-up, but doesn't know if she'll try to get it published or not.
"It's really not about the money," she said. "Sam was just very special."
"Robot Rhymes" is published by Headline Books and is available at Taylor Books, WV Marketplace at Capitol Market and online at Amazon.com. It's also available through the Magic Bloc online library for children.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.