When I first moved to Telluride in 1988, Brother Al was still shovelling walks on Main Street. He was an old man, wearing raggedy clothes, with wild hair and a beard to match. He looked like an Old Testament hippie, and I was, frankly a little afraid of him. Plus, I was young and mostly interested in skiing, finding a boyfriend, and taking care of the kids for whom I was a nanny. I didn’t really pay much attention to the slighly scary old man who shovelled walks.
But then, like most things of importance, Brother Al came into focus. After that first winter, I rented a tiny mouse house across from town park, this was before they built houses on those lots, so I had an unimpeded view of the river and the bottom of Bear Creek, the glorious San Juan’s rising 4000 vertical feet above me. And once in a while, because my house was all glass on that side, I’d be awake early on a Sunday morning watching the sunlight peek over the box canyon, watching the cottonwoods light up, and I’d catch Brother Al preaching on the radio before NPR came on. His mission in life seemed to be reminding us how lucky we all were, how good God was, and how we should share the love. His other mission was supporting KOTO, the marvelous, entirely-volunteer radio station that is the beating heart of Telluride, and when Brother Al appeared on my doorstep raising money for KOTO, who could not give him a check?
Eventually, once I learned that despite his slightly wild appearance, Brother Al was a good guy, and like everyone else in town, I looked forward to seeing him on snowy mornings. He’d stop, say hi, and look at you with those wise old kind eyes, and if you were a hungover idiot kid who had gone home with the wrong guy the night before, Brother Al’s kind eyes were just the benediction you needed.
He was a good man, and despite the small comfort in knowing he died on his way to his pulpit, the world feels like a slightly less golden place this morning knowing that Brother Al is no longer with us.
His obit is here.