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Samuel F. Skaff of Moorhead, shown here in 2004, bought these miniature Bibles by the thousands and gave them to anyone who would accept them. Forum file photo

Moorhead businessman, developer dies

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For Samuel F. Skaff, life wasn't about making money or garnering success in business.

Skaff's mission was to encourage others to follow the Lord - a goal he pursued by passing out thousands of small, white Bibles to anyone he met.

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Skaff, the founder of Skaff Apartments, died Saturday afternoon at age 94 in his Moorhead home.

The McClusky, N.D., native served in World War II before becoming a vacuum salesman and later a real estate developer.

In 1947, Skaff purchased his first piece of real estate - a three-plex home in Bismarck.

Skaff began building homes and apartments in south Moorhead 10 years later - the beginnings of a multimillion-dollar business now known as Skaff Apartments, in Fargo and Moorhead.

The business manages more than 600 apartment units today.

But true to his spirit, Skaff told The Forum in 1976 that his business success had "nothing to do with me. I believe the Lord blessed us materially."

"God first, then the family, above business - this is our philosophy," Skaff had said.

Skaff's children echoed that motto Sunday night, as family members gathered to remember the man and his impact on so many lives.

Skaff suffered a stroke Nov. 12 and spent several days in the hospital before returning home on hospice care, prior to his death.

Charlene Skaff said her father was active until he had the stroke - taking part in numerous Veterans Day activities the day before.

And as he neared the end, Skaff focused his attention to one person: Jesus.

"He always had a passion for Jesus," his son Sam Jr. said. "In the last two weeks, he had never spoken about the apartments he built or the money he made. He only talked about Jesus."

Skaff handed out more than 140,000 Bibles during his life as a way to share his faith.

Skaff's children and grandchildren continue to hear stories from strangers who had received a Bible and been influenced by Skaff's enthusiasm for Jesus, they said.

"What he believed was his passion in life was just to get one more person to follow the Lord," his son Wayne said.

According to a 2004 Forum report, Skaff said that one of his favorite Bible verses was Jeremiah 29:11: "I have a plan for you for your own good if you believe in me."

A funeral for Skaff will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 30 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 210 7th St. S. in Moorhead.

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