“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.” — Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (from the 1997 Disney film “Pooh’s Grand Adventure”)
I first met Al Meyer when he and his family were living on Main Street in Setauket, just opposite Celia Hawkins’ red barn. It was probably about 1959 when we were both serving in the U.S. Navy as quartermasters and I was home on leave and living with my parents farther north on Main Street. Al served four years on a number of U.S. Navy destroyers where he was also a qualified signalman.
We met again after we both joined the Old Field Point Power Squadron, a safe boating organization, where we spent many years together teaching courses from boat handling to celestial navigation and serving in various capacities where we did many projects together. It was the beginning of a long friendship that eventually included our wives and families. Barbara and I were married in 1962, and Al married Bonnie Robertson in 1966, the same year our first daughter Jennifer was born. Each of our families had two daughters and over the years we boated together with Two Sisters and Mischief — the names of our boats. The girls had good times together on our boats, and in later years we visited their homes and at Al and Bonnie’s for many get-togethers and special occasions.
Al worked mostly at Macy’s and A&S department stores ending up as manager of Macy’s Furniture Clearance Center near Roosevelt Field before retiring in 1997. He had a break for almost a decade in the 1970s when he started his own marine supply company, The Suffolk Boat Locker, along Route 25 in Centereach. This was perfect for me. Al’s store was on my way home from Long Island MacArthur Airport, and I would stop there whenever I could, even finishing two desks for my daughters for one Christmas. I think it actually took me more than a year working in the basement of Al’s store. Being there also gave us more time to talk about family, boating vacations and the local community.
Sometimes, probably too often, I would say, “We should [do this or that]” and Al would come back with, “We — do you have a mouse in your pocket?” It became a phrase Al used a lot, but we actually did many “mouse” projects together over the years with the Old Field Point Power Squadron, Three Village Historical Society, Caroline Episcopal Church and Frank Melville Memorial Park Foundation. Al was the quiet, insightful one. I was the loud “let’s jump into it” one. I guess we were a good combination, at least from my perspective. He was excellent with financial matters and served as treasurer from time to time in all four organizations. Al was the organized one, and he kept me in line with many discussions that prevented me, most of the time, from jumping in with both feet before finding out if it was a good idea. I do remember many evenings together in my cellar running off multiple-page newsletters, photos and cards over the years on my rotary press.
Al was very much at home on the water but didn’t like heights. I wanted to show Al some of the Island from the air, especially the inlets, harbor entrances where we boated and some of the shoal areas we discussed in boating classes. We took a Cessna 150 out of MacArthur Airport, and by the time we landed, Al was gripping the bar on the dash so hard his knuckles were white. I realized then that friends do things together that might be uncomfortable for one or another. Thanks, Al!
In 2000, Al, Bonnie, Barbara and I joined a few other friends on a two-week bus tour of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, ending with the once-in-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play. In Switzerland, the entire bus group took a tour up a mountain in a cog railway car. As we traveled up, Al was telling jokes and making the funniest and loudest comments I can ever remember about him. He was usually pretty quiet. He had the whole car in stitches laughing by the time we got to the top. It was Al’s way of getting through the ride with thousand-foot drops on each side all along the route. The area around the ski lodge at the top was beautiful, and we could see cows and hear cowbells echoing off the hills for miles around.
About 2011, Al and Bonnie decided to move near Wilmington, North Carolina, where their daughter Tracy and grandson Griffin live. We missed the parents a lot but were able to get together at their home a number of times and have them stay with us when they came north to see us and the many other friends they have on Long Island. We also stayed in touch by phone and email. Al and I also exchanged many messages about sailing and especially about the America’s Cup competitions which we both followed.
Rest in peace good friend — Albert Henry Meyer. God bless you!
Beverly C. Tyler is a Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730. or visit www.tvhs.org.