Twenty years ago Al and Liz Loebel moved to Healdsburg and fell in love, not with each other because that had already happened. They fell in love with Healdsburg — and Healdsburg fell in love with them. They volunteered all over the place. Al became the unofficial mayor of his neighborhood. Liz became a Master Gardener and joined the local chapter of the A.A.U.W. and they both forgot they were supposed to be retired.
Over those 20 years, new friends remember Al often telling them how grateful he was to have found Healdsburg after a tech career in big cities and with lots of traveling. Al died on April 23 at his home, but not before he was able to share farewells with many of his Healdsburg friends. He was 82.
“We both just kind of jumped in and started getting involved with more and more activities and groups,” said Liz.
The couple met and married in 1997 in Marin County where Liz was living and Al had been doing some IT work at her employer’s company in Novato.
A search for a new home brought them to Healdsburg in 2000. Not quite retired, the house they bought was planned to be a rental, but the dot-com economic bust hastened their retirement plans, and they started their new love affair with Healdsburg a few years earlier than they’d planned.
Al was a very active member and past president of the Rotary Club of Healdsburg Noon, and he booked countless volunteer hours at the Healdsburg Museum, where he also served on the Historical Society board and as president (2005-2006). He was honored with the Langhart Volunteer Appreciation Award in 2007.
Loebel’s large camera collection is a centerpiece of the current display at the Healdsburg Museum, “Picturing Healdsburg.” In his many local volunteer stints, whenever a “technical problem” was confronted by his Rotary Club, the museum, at the Senior Center or elsewhere, Al usually drew the assignment. As versatile as he was with computers and things you plug into a wall, he would probably say he was even better at bridge. He served for many years as the director of the Tuesday Bridge Club at the Healdsburg Senior Center. Club member and fellow Rotarian David Anderson remembers him as a stern taskmaster whom he memorialized in a limerick: “On Tuesdays he is our bridge director; kind of our game moderator; but if we make an error, things get scarier, as he becomes our bridge dictator.”
Current Rotary Club president Paul Frechette said, “Al’s friends in our community, literally scores of people, will hold this terrific man in their hearts forevermore. He had a gregarious personality and penchant to assist friends and various organizations. He was always there when you called upon him.”
Loebel also was a constant morning presence at the Parkpoint Health Club and was a member of the men’s group called the Paper Group. “He really enjoyed his participation in the Paper Group,” said Liz.
Loebel suffered a serious heart attack at age 53 and immediately quit smoking. But lung cancer eventually caught up with him and he battled the disease off-and-on over the past two-and-a-half years.
He was born March 16, 1938, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His career in information technology took him to North Carolina, Rhode Island, Florida and to both southern and northern California. His career spanned the eras of room-sized master computers to hand-held smart phones.
Besides his wife Liz, he is survived by his three children, Sandy (Dale) Allen, Jeff (Wendy) Werner, Kristin (Steve) Schauer; two step children, Kyle (Erin) Hughes and Kimberly Hughes; a sister, Judy Zeller (Milwaukee), and many grand and great grandchildren.
Liz said she will be planning a celebration of Al’s life when such gatherings will again be permitted, and she knows she can anticipate a very large crowd.
In the meantime, people may choose to make a contribution to the Rotary International Foundation through the Rotary Club of Healdsburg (noon), P.O. Box 671, Healdsburg, CA, 95448.