2013-03-21 / Community

Popular Oak Park grad dies in Cabo accident

Memorial services planned
By Stephanie Bertholdo


Sam Levine Sam Levine Sam Levine, a 2009 Oak Park High School graduate and four-year basketball star with the Eagles, died tragically Tuesday while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Tim Chevalier, Levine’s basketball coach, teacher and eventual colleague, said Levine was just weeks from graduating from the University of Southern California when he fell to his death from the sixth floor of his hotel room balcony. He was 22.

Aaron Shaw, Levine’s JV coach and now the school’s varsity basketball coach, invited Levine to join the school as an assistant coach in 2010.

“I remember him as a humble, hard-working leader who loved his teammates and playing basketball for Oak Park,” Shaw said. “More importantly he was just a great role model.”

Chevalier said younger students were thrilled to have Levine, barely out of high school, coach their team with fellow OPHS alumni, Kelly Ross, he said.


ALWAYS SMILING—Sam Levine toys with current varsity player Nicholas Chrysiliou, at bottom, and Austin Spillman, a current senior and former basketball player, on top. ALWAYS SMILING—Sam Levine toys with current varsity player Nicholas Chrysiliou, at bottom, and Austin Spillman, a current senior and former basketball player, on top. “Sam goes down as perhaps the best, pure (basketball) shooter in the history of Oak Park High,” Chevalier said. Levine reportedly averaged 17.1 points and six rebounds per game in high school.

Levine nabbed the honor of Tri-Valley League MVP in 2009.

Athletic abilities aside, Chevalier said Levine was a “true light” for his peers, friends and teammates. “He was a pretty dynamic guy,” he said. “The greatest memories I have of Sam is the smile that he wore—it would light up a room.”

Lori Walling, a fifth-grade instructional aide at Brookside Elementary School in Oak Park, also remembers Levine as a young man who never forgot to smile.

“He was just a good kid,” Walling said, remembering how she used to joke with him on the play yard by calling him “Mr. Sam I Am,” after a Dr. Seuss book. “I’ll never forget him. I’ll miss you, Sam I Am.”

Stories about Levine’s kindness abound. Armin Bidgoli of Oak Park said her two sons adored Levine.

Ryan Bidgoli, a ninth-grader at OPHS, took private basketball lessons from Levine in the summer of 2011, and her older son, Sam, was on his basketball team as a freshman at Oak Park High.

Sam Bidgoli also remembers Levine’s smile. Now a senior, he said he will never forget his friend’s “positive attitude” and how he always joked with students and tried to help them become better players. “Everyone just loved him,” he said.”

Armin Bidgoli said when Levine went off to college he continued to ask her son Ryan to shoot hoops with him whenever he came home for a visit.

“He was like an older brother,” Armin Bidgoli said. “He was part of our family.”

According to a  report in USC's Annenberg TV News, Levine was vacationing in Mexico with college friends at the time of the accident. He was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and was majoring in psychology.

Sam Levine is survived by two older brothers, Ryan and Andrew, and his parents, Michael and Debra.

Memorial services will be held at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, in Westlake Village, on Weds., March 27, at 10 a.m. Immediately following the mass, the funeral will be at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park, 5600 Lindero Canyon Road, Westlake Village. A memorial reception will be held at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, following the burial.

A candle light vigil will be conducted in Levine's memory at an underdetermined date in April.

Additional information has been added to this story.

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