Ernesto J. “Hugh” DeSamper, Jr.

May 25, 2021
Ernesto J. “Hugh” DeSamper, Jr.

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Ernesto J. “Hugh” DeSamper, whose promotion of Colonial Williamsburg boosted visitation for more than three decades, died May 25, 2021 at Patriots Colony, Williamsburg. He was 94.
He joined Colonial Williamsburg as a staff writer in 1954 and served in various public relations and marketing capacities until retiring in 1991 as senior director for media and government relations. He was a greatly respected Williamsburg “go-to” contact person for journalists, travel writers and broadcasters from across the country.

A native of New York City, he grew up in Florida and attended Florida Military Academy. He later lived in Hampton with the family of Ethel and Francis Beale (“Mom and Pop”) and her son Herb Sullivan.

Hugh was a 1951 graduate of the College of William & Mary where he was editor of the campus newspaper, The Flat Hat. An athlete, he was on the Varsity swim team, and co-captain of the Varsity cross country and track teams. He was also a member of the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa and social fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1943, the first of three chapters in a Naval career that spanned 44 years. During World War II he served at the Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, MD, and aboard ship on Atlantic & Pacific crossings as a buglemaster. He was recalled during the Korean War and served as a quartermaster aboard patrol boats along the U.S. Pacific coast. In 1956 he received a commission as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve and retired in 1987 with the rank of captain. Among his decorations is the Meritorious Service Medal.

As a journalist, he was news editor of The Virginia Gazette for two years and later authored The Happy Wanderer, a monthly travel column, for seven years. He was a member of the Public Relations Society of America, a national board member of the Society of American Travel Writers and was honored with membership into its Marco Polo Society. In retirement, he was a free-lance travel writer. He authored a book relating the history and charm of the Williamsburg Inn and a souvenir booklet on Bruton Parish Church.

While at the Gazette, he was appointed by City Council to the community’s recreation committee, a voluntary position that lasted 18 years, nearly all of them as chairman. During that time the program grew from summertime schoolyard games to a year-round schedule of sports and activities for all age groups, directed by a professional.

He and his wife, Carol, executive director of the United Way of Greater Williamsburg, chaired a community-wide effort in 1993 to purchase, renovate and open to the public the Historic Triangle Service Center on Waller Mill Road that has housed dozens of social service organizations.

Hugh enjoyed playing trumpet with the York River Concert Band, singing with the Dukes of Gloucester, a barber-shop group, traveling the world and spending winters in Marco Island, FL where he drew a nightly crowd as he played Taps at sunset. He was a member of Bruton Parish Episcopal Church where he served as an usher and greeter.

Hugh will be remembered for his joie de vivre and genuine interest in everyone around him. He was predeceased by his cherished wife of 45 years, Carol Raymond DeSamper, who died in 2000; a granddaughter, Melanie Strange; and a sister, Victoria Davidson. He is survived by two daughters, Kimberlee “Kim” Goldsmith (Douglas) of Rye, NY, and Stephanie “Stevie” Strange (William) of Greenville, SC; sisters-in-law, Vi Raymond of McLean, VA, and Louise “Betty” Sullivan of Hampton, VA; step-granddaughters, Lisa Goldsmith Siega (Marcos) of Purchase, NY, Sara Goldsmith of Brooklyn, NY; and Lindsay Whetstone of Charleston, SC; and seven great grandchildren.

A service will be held at Bruton Parish on Saturday, June 5 at 1:00 p. m. with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association ( or Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (


Saturday, June 5, 2021
1:00 PM

Bruton Parish Episcopal Church - Directions
201 West Duke of Gloucester Street
Williamsburg, VA 23185

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  • May 28, 2021
    Cindy Brown says:
    Kim and Stephanie, your father was a German who lived life to the fullest. He always had a smile on his face and was never afraid to say “I Love you” to those dear to him. We were lucky to have him in our lives. Sending you Love and prayers for peace. Cindy

  • May 29, 2021
    Allison Jeffrey says:
    Dear Kim and Stephanie, I am so sorry to hear of the death of your father. My most cherished memory of him was the day when I skipped school with my friend Anne Harrison. My parents weren’t around and after hanging out at my house we walked to Jamestown Road and, feeling like happy fugitives, we stuck out our thumbs to hitch a ride to Merchants Square. It was a bright spring day and we were liberated! A car pulled over immediately and we climbed in, congratulating ourselves on our luck. Within seconds, I realized with a shock that the driver was your father. He was wearing sun glasses and he looked straight ahead at the road. My heart was thumping. I stared at the floor. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize me and wouldn’t know to tell my parents. After all, it had been a few years since he’d seen me. We took the two-minute ride in total silence. He pulled up in front of the Wigwam and as Anne and I scrambled out of the car, he said, “Goodbye, Anne. Goodbye, Allison”. “You know him too?”, I said to Anne, as your dad drove off. “All my life”, she answered. We assumed he would quickly call our parents to “tattle” on their disobedient kids. We waited for our punishment. It never happened. Your father did not “tell” on us. I had always really liked him, but after that experience, I loved him. As time passed, I realized that he must have understood what it was like to be young, high-spirited and looking for fun. Perhaps, more than that, he was a father, who saw his friend’s teenage kids hitch-hiking and he picked us up to keep us safe. He had the grace to know the balance between protecting our safety and our spirit. I remember him with great warmth and my thoughts are with you in your time of loss. If either of you get to NYC, please contact me. It would be wonderful to see you. Love, Allison

  • May 29, 2021
    Kris Fox Dippre Brown says:
    What an intelligent, talented man, and hey, a really nice guy. I met Mr. DeSamper before I started working at CW, when my mother was taking school groups around, and I would drive up after classes at CNU and hang out for the afternoon. I would usually see Hugh out doing something. Then I got to know him better when I also became an employee in 1976. He was truly dedicated to the CW mission and it was appreciated. He will be truly missed.

  • May 30, 2021
    John Daly says:
    Kim and Stephanie, I have fond memories of your parents from both Williamsburg and London when they visited in the late seventies, early eighties. We met at one of the swankiest private clubs in London. The first thing your father said to me that evening was, "JD, your money is no good this evening." I had never heard that term before! We proceeded to have the finest meal, accompanied by wonderful conversation and a little too much of a very good wine! I was sad when your mother passed and am equally sad at your Dad's passing. Carol was a lovely woman. He was a lovely man. It is easy to see that you and Stephanie are their children Please accept my sincere, heartfelt condolences on your loss.

  • June 04, 2021
    Mary Tudor says:
    Kim and Stevie. Heaven received a very special man. He was a pleasure to have around to talk with and hear his Music. I will always remember and love the nights he played his trumpet. Rob and I are truly sorry. Prayers and hugs. Love you.