Remembering Al Reiter

Al Reiter (submitted photo)
Al Reiter (submitted photo)
A clipping from a 1997 Review story by Pamela O’Meara about Al Reiter’s round trip bicycle ride to Duluth, where he ran Grandma’s Marathon. (submitted photo)
A clipping from a 1997 Review story by Pamela O’Meara about Al Reiter’s round trip bicycle ride to Duluth, where he ran Grandma’s Marathon. (submitted photo)

My friend Al Reiter died Nov. 15. He was 83.

A long-time Roseville resident, Al was a good friend to hundreds of people in the Twin Cities running and biking communities.

He was an avid runner and biker well into his 70s and over the years I would often run, walk or bike with Al, this wiry, white-haired guy who was passionate about the two sports. It seemed like he could bike endless miles, often with his buddy Roy Carlstad of St. Paul, who's another decade older.

I remember a few late fall rides with Al and Roy and Jeanne Minder of Shoreview, looking at the colored leaves and knowing it would soon be winter. There were lots of group rides and runs. Then I remember the parties, including Al's 75th birthday bash.

Roy says they used to bike over regularly to see how the construction of the new Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River was going, adding they’d also work on cars together.

"He was quite a mechanic as well as a biker," Roy says. "He was a great guy and we had a lot of fun."

Jeanne recalls, "Al did many 100-mile bike rides with me when I was training for the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and also helped to qualify me for the Boston Marathon by pacing me for the last six miles of the Twin Cities Marathon, getting me through the finish line four minutes ahead of the qualifying time."

She says Al did about 24 marathons, including Boston, and with Roy, about 20 TRAMs — The Ride Across Minnesota.

Jeanne rode with them several times on the five-day bike ride.

"Life was always simple with Al, but fun and relaxed," Jeanne says. "He brought joy and memories to many people over the years...Al was a Christian and showed it in every aspect of life through his giving and caring qualities."

Giving and caring

Widowed at a fairly young age and childless, Al was always helping others. Several years ago, after I had a very nasty bicycle crash, he helped make my townhouse handicap-accessible.

Paulette Odenthal, of Prior Lake, recalls a few things Al did for her over the years. They met while she was a student at the University of St. Thomas and joined the Phalen Park Runners. For her first Grandma's Marathon, he gave her a special watch for runners. She carried it in her hand the whole race.

At his funeral, she placed the same watch in his casket by his crossed hands.

"He was the most kind, wonderful man, and I never heard him say anything bad about anyone. He always looked for the good in people," Paulette says. "He kept me grounded in my spiritual faith and was always there to help. He was very spiritually grounded himself."

Marie Duchesneau of New Brighton says Al was her mentor and got her to start racing when they both worked at Univac — now Unysis.

Al was a software guy who worked on the early UNIVAC 1 computer and spent 34 years at the company, after working on airborne radar for the U. S. Air Force.

He also started the Unisys running club. When Marie was training for her first Grandma’s Marathon, she says he would stash water bottles around Bald Eagle Lake on her training route.

Margaret Kuhfeld of Roseville says she and Al and others used to do Friday bikes rides of 25 to 40 miles, stopping for breakfast. "Al liked to find the highest and longest hill to conquer," she says.

"Al rode on every TRAM until he physically couldn't. He had such a good time renewing old friendships, and he was usually one of the first riders to reach the day’s destination.

"Al was a great collector of old movies which he invited us to watch with him," Margaret says, adding. "Goodbye, friend. I'll see you in Heaven."

Failing health

Eventually, Al had health issues and ended up in assisted living in Roseville and, the last year, in memory care. It was hard on him and hard for friends to see this vibrant friend fade.

"Over the last few years, my heart slowly broke," says Paulette, who visited him there and sometimes took him out. "It was hard to see this strong, vibrant, intellectual person fading. Now he's in a good place.

"I could never do enough for all the blessings he gave me in life...I loved him so much. He was a wonderful man."

Paulette says he would often comment, "All days are good. Some days are better. Always be kind. Always be supportive and tolerant." She says she often repeats this to herself.

Jeanne adds, "When his health started to fail, I picked him up on my two days off work every week and took him out of assisted living for a few hours. We went to all of the state and county fairs, movies, lunch, drove down all of our old bike ride routes in Washington county.

"He talked about being in the Air Force in the Korean War, the computer main frames he had designed for Unisys, growing up on a farm in Plainview, doing TRAM and once biking to Duluth to Grandma's Marathon, and then home the next day" she says.

"Al truly used his gifts and left a legacy for all of us," Jeanne says, adding, "Al, you will be very much missed by all! Thanks for your wonderful friendship."

In the end, his funeral bulletin read, "Al Reiter: I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."

Pamela O'Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7818.

 

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