Albert F. 'Al' Weber
QCWA # 10358
XYL: Flo KL7AZ Q# 12694
FAIRBANKS - Two years ago(2017), Al Weber did something he has never done before. He let his hair grow. Now, as he approaches his 100th birthday, he sports a thin white ponytail. Maybe he will cut it, maybe he will continue to let it grow. He hasn't decided yet.
This longtime Alaskan lives at the Fairbanks Pioneers' Home now, where he leads sing-a-longs, practices his harmonica, autoharp or fiddle, and visits with friends.
It was never too late for Weber to try new endeavors, whether it was learning to scuba dive in his late 60s or learning to play the autoharp at 79.
His hobby of radio communications became his career, when he trained bomber pilots to use radios during World War II. That skill came in handy when he ran a ham radio network from his home to help residents during the 1967 flood in Fairbanks. He has been in Alaska since 1951. His journey began in Jersey City, New Jersey, and continued with a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard in Honolulu in 1935.
"My plan was to come here when I got out of the service," he said. "I always figured I'd go back in and get sea duty north. I never made that. Along came the war and I was stuck. But I got a job in 1938 in Los Angeles where LAX is now."
He was a master of radio communications.
"I taught radio communications to bomber pilots, all the big guys. A classroom of 100 guys, all bigger than me," he said. Weber described himself as "117-pounds soaking wet, 5-feet, 9-inches."
He was three pounds under the weight that the military required for his height. So when he got to training at boot camp, he told the doctor, "I haven't been eating too well the last week or so." "That's on my discharge papers too," he added, with a laugh.
After the war, he eventually headed north to repair radios and to run a photo studio in Anchorage. His thought was, "Why not go to Alaska?" He got a job as a radio engineer at KFRB Radio.
Weber has always been a ham radio operator. In fact, he still has a unit in his room at the Pioneers' Home. It was through radios that he met his wife, Florence.
"Flo was not meetable," he said. "She was a ham radio operator as was I. I used to hear her on the air."
He contemplated how to meet her. But his friends, Celia Hunter and Ginny Wood, who lived in the part of Fairbanks called Dogpatch, told him, "You'll never get to her."
He took that as a challenge.
"One night, we all met on the air. Florence came on and there was this screech and such as she was tuning her transmitter. It was one she had built. So I got on and told her, 'I've got something here to fix this.' There was dead silence. She plain flat ignored me. Hard to get. That was Florence."
Weber and his daughter were living in an old Quonset Hut on Illinois Street. Florence lived nearby. He radioed her: "I know where you live. We'll be down to take care of that."
Florence replied with one word: "Don't."
"So Ann and I climbed in the car, we drove on down, got up by her door, Ann went ahead of me and knocked," Weber said. "The door opens, she sees Ann, she didn't see me. She opened the door and there I was. So finally, reluctantly, she let us in. It didn't take two minutes to fix that transmitter. I turned around and left and said goodnight."
"She was really gun shy," he recalled of his longtime spouse, who now resides in another section of the Pioneers' Home where she receives specialized care. "She was like that all her life. We got along for about 60 years now."
In fact, they married at Camp Denali, a remote resort at Denali National Park. And then they just went about living life. She worked as a geologist, so she traveled into the field quite a bit. He kept things going at home. Weber also became a faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
He dismisses the idea that he is a musician, even though he started playing music at age 10.
According to his longtime friend Courtney Linkous, who visits him regularly at the Pioneers' Home, "He would go out with his little guitar, stop in at a bar, not to drink, but to play. He'd play a few songs, then all of a sudden he was there till 4 o.clock in the morning."
He provided a mini-concert this week, right after lunch, playing the autoharp and accompanied by Linkous. They performed "Sparrow In The Treetop," a song that Linkous said she believes personifies Weber.
Turns out he learned how to play the autoharp at age 79. He taught himself to play.
"I've just been at it ever since," he said. "The rest is history."
Friends and family will celebrate his 100th birthday on Jan. 29 at the Palace Saloon at Pioneer Park. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. and continue until the birthday honoree gets tired. But don't bring any gifts, Weber said.
"I have everything I need and then some," he said. "Don't bring anything, especially no heavy thoughts."
Do bring your musical instruments, though. He's ready to jam.
ARS: KL7AG QCWA # 10358
Po Box 80745
Fairbanks, AK USA 99708-0745
January 1, 2017
This is a very special year as you celebrate your '80 Year Anniversary' in Amateur Radio.
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you on this significant milestone in your amateur radio avocation!
A copy of your Anniversary Award is available on the Members Only Webpage. Click on "Create Member Awards" where you can create a copy of the award for 50, 55, 60 and 65-year awards, or request a copy of the awards for 70 years of more. As well, you can order hard copies of any award you qualify for.
If I can be of any further assistance to aid you in enjoying your membership in QCWA, and the next milestone in amateur radio, please let me know. I can be reached at email@example.com
Again, congratulations on your notable milestone in amateur radio!!
Ken Oelke, VE6AFO
President, Quarter Century Wireless Association, Inc.
Tara Woolery, who shows she is 4, attends the 100th birthday of her oldest friend, Al Weber,
last Sunday in Fairbanks. (Dermot Cole / Alaska Dispatch News) Published February 4, 2017
Al and Florence Weber stand in front of the greenhouse they built our of visqueen and aluminum pipes in 1974
Marilyn West photo
Al Weber visits with friend Judy Triplehome during his 90th Birthday celebration ar Hushers Hall.
Shirley Liss photo
April 29, 2018