Reseda High School, Reseda, California.

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  1. Derrick says:

    Remembering Albert.

    His obit poignantly includes his middle name, “Hurricane.”
    But for many of us when you said, “Albert will be there,” no one was unclear which Albert you meant.

    When I was thirteen, in the summer before 8th grade, our family had just moved to Reseda. New Sequoia school, new teachers, new bullies, new friends, the typical teenage terror consumed me at times.

    But I did not meet Albert for a while, he was a semester older, paths did not cross. But whenever the older boys on my block mentioned their buddy Albert they lowered their voices an octave. They got serious and said, “Ooooh, Albert.” I took it the guy was surely their friend, but he also intimidated them.

    I earmarked Albert as, “Beware, bully.”

    But when I met Albert it took ten seconds for my anticipated image to evaporate. Clearly he could have bench-pressed the enormous log in front of the school, but his strength was not channeled brutishly.

    In fact, classmate Rick Wilkins just shared a prominent memory of Albert being the anti-bully, which is so true. Albert would not abide someone lording it over another. I, too saw him intervene many times when someone was being picked on. But he did not bully the bully during these interventions. He just made it be known to “stop that crap.”

    And when the eye of the hurricane is present, and tells you how it will be, calmly but forcefully, you respect its latent forces.

    When I learned last Thursday that Albert had died, it was a surprise. We’d spoken more often the past few years regarding classmate and reunion matters, but he hadn’t mentioned being ill with cancer. But if Albert’s life taught me anything, it was to nourish the positive, and let it enrich you and yours. I have many recollections of Albert’s virtue blowing through my days at Sequoia and Reseda, and here are two of the simplest, but most important to me:

    Albert loved to laugh, but there had to be a good reason. Our friend Bill Covino was a skilled comic, and was often acting out skits he’d seen on TV: Smothers Brothers, Get Smart, Bill Cosby — our Bill brought us replays before VCR’s. Often he’d team with Bill Bowles, another natural actor, and they had talent to revitalize a bit of comedy and brighten the day.

    Although being a semester ahead Albert was out of our social group, if he saw the Bills and I walking he’d go out of his way to request, “So what’s on TV today?” The Bills were equally bemused that formidable Albert wanted to hear a joke from some skinny geeks, but they would oblige. Albert was appreciative and he’d often shout the punch line to us weeks later, just to savor it again.

    After one polished portrayal of Cosby I remarked to Bill Covino, “You do some of your best work for Albert.”
    It was true, Albert was the kind of audience that sparked your best.

    Bill wryly said, “I’d better.”

    Very funny, too, but just no longer true based on how we’d grown to see Albert. I think it was not our being in awe of Albert that prompted good work. It was being relaxed, knowing he was a force on our side that meant something.

    Later at Reseda High, after getting to know and trust Albert’s friendship, I once passed him in the hall and he greeted me, “Hi, Derry.” (his nickname for me).

    I replied, “Hello, Wally Cox,” and we kept on walking.

    But suddenly here was Albert in my face. He’d turned around, caught me and demanded, almost hesitantly, “Why’d you call me Wally Cox’?”
    His nose was touching mine, but after those many years I now knew our Albert.

    I was not worried.

    “Albert, are you Wally Cox?”

    “Hell, no!” he said, still perplexed.

    But then he got it.

    I have never laughed so hard in my life as some times I shared something funny with Albert.

    For weeks if he’d see me he’d shake his head and say, “Wally Cox!”

    This next remembrance is far more important to me. Here was this guy who I admired for his mixture of strength and goodness, but he just kept growing. His steady sweetheart was our schoolmate Janis Bird. When it became clear to the other guys that Albert was in love with Janis, this was something new, as few of them had ever been serious about anything. In the gym, using the anonymity of shouted locker room banter, they probed Albert with the proverbial suggestive questions, like “How far have you got?”

    But Albert would have none of it.

    And as was typical of Albert, it took just once to let it be known, “Do not go there.”

    He respected Janis as much as he was flipped out over her, and she was not to be referred to as some type of exploit.

    Now my dad, by the way he treated my mom and other ladies, both in and out of their presences, had already instilled in me this lesson. But seeing Albert, a peer, who could have easily gained fame and stature by bragging, instead just say:

    “Not your business, that’s between me and my lady,” — well it was a major good example I’ve never forgotten.

    Albert, you were and remain a fresh breeze in so many lives.

    Thanks, pal.

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