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Albert R. Gordon

Died: September 20, 2015

Edward Folland remembers:

Al and I met through WYBC and soon discovered that we had a common interest in fishing. My fondest memory of Al was Thanksgiving Day of 1965, when we strapped his canoe to the top of my old Mercury and drove to the Salmon River for a day of fishing. As I recall, we didn’t catch any fish but thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful, late autumn day. I am pleased to have found the photo of Al paddling his canoe that day (check Al’s photo tab). I am saddened by the news of his passing and regret that we never had the opportunity to fish together again.

May you rest in peace, Al.

Thomas Israel remembers:

As I look back it is only a week since my dear friend Al(bert) Gordon left us after a year of dealing with a progressive form of cancer. The pain in my heart is still here so it is difficult to be reflective, and there were so many Al Gordons, it takes some explaining to understand the totality and beauty of this person. The one constant throughout is the size of Al’s heart- bigger than anyone can imagine.

To begin let me give a brief chronology of his life. He grew up (actually Al never totally grew up as he always retained his youthful spirit and an irreverent sense of humor) in a small southern city Columbia, TN. We will call this the first life of Albert — from time to time and place to place he went from being known as Albert to Al and back to Albert. Then he proceeded to the somewhat predictable life of an Ivy Leaguer — Andover for two years, Yale, Harvard Law School, and a big NYC law firm. He was a varsity athlete (wrestling, a sport no longer offered at today’s Yale), musician (lead guitar of his prep school band, the Satans), and of course Ranking Scholar).

However Al, as he was then known, was never comfortable in the role he had chosen, not by just a little bit, but a total revulsion. He quit the legal practice, gave away what little money he had, and with only the clothes on his back he journeyed to a commune in CA earning money along the way to pay for food.

After some years there he retraced his steps back east to a commune in VA, and then the search for His Life took over again. With a friend and a cheap used car he headed to Canada. As could be expected the car broke down in Maine so he decided to visit a tiny island off the coast named Isle au Haut. He immediately fell in love with it and the population of 60 — yes 60 — full time residents. Rather than communal living, he seemed to prefer the isolation of this remote island. He quickly learned the skills of being a first class carpenter; he built houses, boats and furniture, and became a successful lobster fisherman. Sometime later he got a call from a college friend whom he had met during his time at Harvard, Kathie Fiveash who had attended a NYC private girls school and Harvard University and she said she was tired of the Boston Life and was looking to getting away from it all. Needless to say Al had the perfect solution to her need for a new life so Kathie moved to Isle au Haut, and she spent a wonderful semi subsistent life with him. Kathie had daughters near Northampton, where she and Al spent winters, partly to avoid the brutal aspects of coastal living. It was here that Al and Kathie spent the last year of his life struggling mightily to fight the dreaded effects of cancer very much the same way he had fought valiantly as a varsity wrestler.

One of his close friends and Andover wrestling teammate had this to say:

“Yet not only winners should be mentioned in this list of surprising performances. For the choice few who could get up to Exeter for the wrestling meet, Al Gordon exhibited such endurance, courage, and guts as I have never seen in four years at Andover. Alone, on a red mat, before a mob of howling Exies, he robbed Sneed of his fall by fantastic bridging. Because of performances like these, Andover was able to stay in the meet.”

One time Al joked about knowing the exact number of lights on the ceiling of the Exeter gymnasium. This was quintessential Al, brave beyond belief but never willing to accept the lime light.

As Kathie related, “Albert hated memorial services. He didn’t like the ceremony, the somber people coming from far away, the fancy clothes, the hushed tones. We discussed many times what to do about people’s need to gather after his death. He wanted people to gather in their communities and talk about him, tell stories, make music, laugh, and ‘keep on’.”

Kathie was a stalwart throughout, and the love and care between these late-in-life partners was a beautiful thing to observe.

I had the good fortune to meet Al when he entered Andover as an 11th grader.

A bit shy and short in height, he was a quiet friend; but despite our differences, we formed a relationship that survived for over 50 years. It was my good fortune that we both went to Yale and lived in Davenport College. I was also lucky that we were both tapped for the same Senior Society so we got to spend two evenings a week together for our entire senior year. Al was one of the most reserved members of our group but was truly sympathetic to our weaknesses.

Then sadly our paths parted and there was a long period of silence as we each went down very different paths. About 10 years ago our Senior Society started to have mini-reunions to rekindle old friendships, and we took turns hosting whoever would show up. Somehow Al and Kathie got stuck hosting us twice but always with warmth and caring. Over the past decade, Al and I enjoyed an email relationship that for me always brought joy and a smile to my face. Somehow we both shared a somewhat irreverent sense of humor in which each tried to outdo the other.

We got particularly competitive when it came to injuries. Thank goodness Joe Upton was there to mend or replace whatever damage Al had done to himself. And then suddenly last November came the diagnosis: stage four lung cancer. One might have thought that this would destroy his optimism and good humor, but not at all. Al was Al no matter the situation. Having been a lymphoma survivor myself, we had even more in common and the pace of our emails picked up.

Knowing how private Al was, about six weeks ago I summoned the courage to ask If I might visit him and Kathie. Much to my surprise he accepted my invitation so I journeyed to Northampton where Kathie had a home and Al was able to get treatment in a nearby hospital.

When I arrived, there he was working on something that looked like a tree trunk which he said was going to be a table. And indeed it did as the attached picture will attest.

And a week ago I was to make my second pilgrimage when I got the chilling email, “Don’t come, Albert has gone to the hospital.” And less than 24 hours later he had left us.

During the later stages of his cancer the pain had increased significantly; and due to a tumor in his head, he lost his balance and broke his humerus which only added further agony. But never once did he complain, NOT ONCE. Nor did he lose his incorrigible sense of humor. And he always ended his emails by asking about my health and then would end with “keep on.” And so I will try to live up to that, but it won’ be the same without you Albert! Al, you probably never knew how good you were but we sure did. KEEP ON!!