Flag: Sam Kardashian started with an oversized American flag and added other flags to his custom pole over time. The displays drew the attention of local news agencies including the Evening Outlook and the Los Angeles Times. Courtesy photos

Sam V. Kardashian’s family would tell you he was larger than life, just like his 30’x50’ flag that waves proudly beside the Santa Monica (10) Freeway near Cloverfield on the eastern edge of town.

Kardashian, a longtime Santa Monican and the owner of Southern California Disposal & Recycling Company, died last week at the age of 81, but Old Glory will continue flying on the company’s 100-foot flagpole, a testament to Kardashian’s love of his country.

In 1974, Kardashian installed what was called at the time “the largest flag in the West,” and the stars and stripes have remained flying there ever since.

“I think the country was going through some tough times, back in the ’70s, and he just felt compelled to fly that flag to show his love for this country,” Kardashian’s son-in-law Haig “Mike” Matosian said. “Sam, doing things in Sam’s way, wanted to fly the biggest flag he could, because he just never did anything small.”

Kardashian’s wife Paulette said Sam, like many children of immigrants at that time, was raised to be proud and thankful to live in America. The flag was his idea, paid for with his own money, and as it gained notoriety he was excited to be able to share something so positive with the Santa Monica community.

Both Matosian and Paulette said Sam was humble and big-hearted; he resisted using the flag in marketing material or to further his business, despite it being such a well-known symbol in town.

And, for as iconic as the large American flag is, Matosian said it’s another flag that has elicited the most emotional response from the community.

After Kardashian began flying the 30’x50’ flag, he was approached by the family of a U.S. soldier who was missing in action in the Vietnam War: Staff Sergeant James Michael Ray. Ray’s family requested Kardashian fly a POW/MIA flag alongside the red, white and blue. Kardashian agreed, and from then on, every year between Memorial Day and Independence Day, the black and white POW/MIA flag accompanies the American flag.

“When we fly that flag, I’m not kidding, our phone starts ringing off the hook,” Matosian said. “You get a lot of vets that would call, and those were the ones that were the most emotional, at least in my experience, and you know, vets calling up just in tears sobbing about how much they appreciate it flying.”

Tucked into a scrapbook Kardashian created with photos and memorabilia about the flag is a letter written by a woman named Marjorie Pickett, dated September 1974.

In her letter, Pickett wrote about how disheartened she had become learning that draft dodgers were to return from Canada, where they fled to avoid the Vietnam draft.

“I was sitting here not caring to go on living when I saw your big flag and I know it was your flag that sent Bob to serve,” Pickett wrote. “He isn’t home yet. The news of the returning cowards from Canada is sending many of us to the streets this Saturday. Thank you for flying your flag and I hope my son will be home soon either for burial or to recover from his POW experience.”

Also in the scrapbook was a note Kardashian wrote about why he chose to fly the large flag.

“I am of Armenian heritage. My parents came from Armenia to the United States of America in 1913,” Kardashian wrote. “I am first generation American. My parents literally kissed the ground they walked on and always told us, my brother and sisters, that there was not a better place to live in or go to, than this great country, America.”

Kardashian’s family shared information about his life. Born in Boyle Heights, he was the youngest of eight children born to Varus and Nuvart Kardashian, Armenian immigrants from Kars, in what was then the Russian Empire. Kardashian spent his formative years in Baldwin Hills, attending California Military Academy and Dorsey High School, where he was a star athlete in multiple sports. In 1964, he married the love of his life, Paulette Adalian. Sam and Paulette moved to Santa Monica, where they raised their family and established Southern California Disposal, the company he would own and operate until the end of his life.

Matosian said Kardashian’s love of his country and community lasted throughout his life.

“He loved his family, he loved his state, he loved this country and especially loved the city of Santa Monica,” Matosian said. “He couldn’t talk smack about Santa Monica because he just thought it was the best place in the world to live.”

In addition to his loving wife Paulette, he is also survived by his two children, Tamara Matosian and husband Haig “Mike” Matosian, Luke Kardashian and wife Seta Kardashian. He was the proud grandfather to his five grandchildren: Sammy (Marisol), Valentina, Max (Ashley), Tiffany (Shant), and Sabrina; and two great grandchildren: Sammy and Danny.

Funeral services will be held at Saint Monica’s Catholic Church, 725 California Avenue in Santa Monica on February 24, 2022 at 10 a.m. followed by the graveside service at Woodlawn Cemetery located at 1847 14th Street.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Ararat Home of Los Angeles – Westside Guild at ararathome.org or 5655 Jumilla Avenue, Woodland Hills, CA 91367.

emily@smdp.com