September 6, 2023

Obituaries 8/6/2023

Kurt Henry Tazelaar

Kurt Henry Tazelaar, aged 64 and a lifelong Princeton resident, passed away peacefully at Princeton Hospital on August 15, 2023 after a courageous four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was with his loving wife Sally and his brothers Eric and John as he passed. He was born in Boston, MA, on October 27, 1958.

Kurt was a tour de force to anyone who knew him. He was intensely analytical, he was a voracious and indiscriminate reader, and could discuss virtually any topic at a scholar’s level. He had a devastating and unmatched sense of humor. He never stopped learning and growing intellectually.

He was massively creative and massively talented. He loved music his entire life and started playing guitar as a young teenager on an acoustic 12-string guitar. He never took a lesson, wrote all his own music, and never wanted to sound like anyone else. In 1994 Kurt put together a band called Duf Davis and the Book Club, with Chris Breetveld and Tim Korzun (“Duf Davis” came from family names on his mother’s side). They played locally and put out several CDs, including “Endless Mindless Violence” and “I Hate People, No Exceptions.” He also performed solo in town, using a guitar style that was all his own. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of 20th century American music, listening to thousands of hours (regardless of genre) while working at the Princeton Record Exchange for decades. In his last performance shortly before his death, he gave a stirring rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Winds” at a friend’s party.

Kurt cared deeply about his role as a shepherd of the Earth. He became a vegetarian in his teens, recycled everything, and rode his bike whenever possible up until his last few months. In 2013, along with his wife, he was awarded a Sustainable Princeton Leadership Award. He was a relentless warrior against invasive species. He put in countless hours, even while on chemo, in Herrontown Woods, moving huge rocks by himself to improve the trails. A memorial bench for him will be placed in the woods.

He was a prolific abstract painter, producing hundreds of pieces. Kurt was entirely self-taught, never having an art lesson or ever painting in the style of anyone else. He never fell into any set pattern, using a multitude of techniques to produce stunning works. He met his soulmate Sally in the Ace Hardware store at the Princeton Shopping Center on June 10, 2012, where they struck up a conversation about building and painting birdhouses. They were married on March 13, 2015.

Growing up, Kurt spent part of each summer on Cape Cod and always loved its ambiance. While he was in remission, he went to the Cape with Eric, gorging on whole belly clams, biking, and dreaming of having a house there. A portion of his ashes will be taken to St. David’s Episcopal Church in West Dennis, where several relatives are interred.

In his 20s, Kurt volunteered at WPRB for several years as a host. He later volunteered at Princeton Community Television with Sally, where he worked with his good friend Adam Bierman.

He was a master of trivia, holding court at the Ivy Inn on Tuesday nights for many years with his team, Go Fact Yourself. Kurt had many great friends there, and would visit with other teams during breaks. After a long absence while he was on chemo, he and Sally returned and Kurt was greeted with a standing ovation, which meant the world to him. He was working on his own book of trivia, List Ten, at the time of his passing.

Kurt became the family genealogist, tracing the Tazelaar name back to an island in the Netherlands in the 1500s. He reached out to distant previously unknown relatives and shared the family history. He helped find grave markers in Princeton Cemetery for other families in search of relatives and would take wonderful photos for them.

Kurt hated buying anything new, throwing anything out, and doing anything before 2 p.m. He was a lover of cats, being a kind caretaker to Suzie, Joe, and the ever-charismatic George. He loved playing with his nieces, giving them rides and scaring them with his “powers.” He could make incredible noodle dishes, using a host of seasonings from Asian and Indian markets. He was a devoted son to his mother Doris.

Kurt leaves behind his wife Sally; his mother Doris; his brothers Eric and John; his sister-in-law Cecelia; his nieces Julia, Sophia, and Clara; his grand-nephew Winton; his stepchildren Paula, Matthew, and Philip; his step grandchild Derek; his aunt Frances; many cousins; and his cat George. His ashes will be buried in Princeton Cemetery, and he will be remembered at the Ivy Inn in the fall.

Dorothy Harweger Sams

Dorothy Harweger Sams, a resident of Princeton for over 50 years and a co-founder of the Lamplighter Bookstore (Nassau Street), peacefully went on to be with our Lord on March 20, 2023, at the age of 91 surrounded by family. She was born in Cisna Park, IL, in 1931. The day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, she recounted as the most important day of her life, as just prior to hearing the announcement she had listened to Rev. Fuller on the radio and had made the decision to put her trust in Jesus as her savior; that decision then guided all the following decisions of her life.

Dorothy received her B.S. in Education from Illinois State Normal University (1953), and her M.A. in Education from University of Illinois (1958). In 1956 she married Burnett, and his work in computer science moved them to Dartmouth College, MIT, Bethesda, and Cranberry, NJ, before settling in Princeton where they raised their two daughters.

Dorothy taught grades 1-6 for eight years, in Champaign, Bloomington, and Urbana, Illinois, as well as in Hanover, NH, and Plainsboro, NJ, before staying home to raise her daughters. She volunteered in the public school, and served at Nassau Presbyterian, Kingston Presbyterian, and Princeton Alliance churches in various capacities. She, her husband, and friends co-founded the Living Word nonprofit organization, under which the Lamplighter Christian Bookstore was founded and provided Christian books and ministry to the Princeton University community for 25 years. She was passionate about both people and sharing the truths of the Bible, and devoted much of her time to recruiting volunteers and running fundraising efforts over its 25 years.

She loved spending time with her family and hosting international students in their home. She also enjoyed leading neighborhood Bible studies for 11 years, square dancing, dramatic readings, university lectures, and traveling to Europe, China, and Japan. Each Easter she thoughtfully created scavenger hunts with rhyming clues for her grandchildren.

In her later years she worked as a receptionist at Gund Investment Co. and taught at the Mercer Christian Academy in Ewing, NJ, for 10 years. She adored teaching and served as a Sunday School teacher at Princeton Alliance Church throughout her 70s. She will be remembered for how freely she gave to others in need, particularly in providing opportunities for people to hear the Bible taught and respond in faith to Jesus Christ.

Dorothy was predeceased by her husband of 61 years, Burnett. She is survived by her two daughters, Barbara Becker of CO, and Deborah Smith of NJ; their husbands Gordon and John; and seven grandchildren, Cassandra (and Joshua), Kyle (and Karyn), Davidson, and Evelyne Becker and Daniel, JoAnna, and Jacqueline Smith. Dorothy spent her last five years living with Deborah’s family in NJ.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Burnett H. and Dorothy F. Sams Visiting Professor of Preaching Fund at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 130 Essex Street, South Hamilton, MA, 01982. A private family memorial will be held. Condolences can be sent to