Al was raised Catholic, and he was especially grateful that his dad (whose name was Elmer and Al was then Elmer Jr.) was impelled and firm that he have a religious education. He therefore went to parochial schools. He attended St. Mary Academy high school; but ended up graduating from LHS. Providentially though, he was able to prematurely achieve the required credits to graduate from LHS and so in his senior year he obtained a work permit allowing him to leave school at lunch time to work full time at Lorain’s first supermarket… Fisher Bros. Foods then located at 330 Broadway.
Al would say that he had lived three different lives.
1st Life… Pre-Polio… Being naturally athletic he did track-and-field; played baseball, some gymnastics, basketball, wrestled, a strong swimmer, bicycled a lot, lifted weights, bowled, was known as a bit of a daredevil, loved to arm wrestle, liked doing physical labor, etc. etc..
It is a well-established fact that the benefits of these physical activities in his 1st life are what made it possible for him to get through his 2nd life well.
Second Life…With Polio and Recovery… At 22, he married his high school sweetheart Dee Bevan, and a year later they had a son, Robin. Two more children, Laura and Erik came much later in their life. Al was working full time at National Tube Co. (USS); as well as having formed a very successful local band that was booked every weekend, (as much as two years ahead) called the Melody Knights (later it became The Al Thiery Quartet) and along with this he was contributing part time work to the contractor of their first house. It was then in1954 Al was stricken with the dreaded polio disease. This was in the same year the Salk vaccine came out.
During his months in City Hospital (now Metro-General Health Medical Center) he developed a sideline interest in checkers. This pursuit continued on when he got out of hospital and he enjoyed visitors coming to see if they could beat him playing checkers.
Their families helped prepared their new house so that upon being released from the hospital he went right into it.
During this time of regaining and recuperation he spent a lot of time every day, with the help of his wife, doing therapy; some of which were of their own devised endeavors.
Also during this time of incapacitation he studied more passionately than ever the guitar, as well as preparing music for his band.
Having progressed from the wheelchair to crutches but was not able to return to the Steel Plant until he could walk without the crutches. At the same time a pivotal life changing connection in the person of Joe Marotta entered his life. Joe suggested that Al give teaching guitar at his Music Center a try. This he did.
Then having improved, never completely but sufficiently acceptable and no longer needing crutches he returned to US Steel and still continued to teach also. Although he primarily taught guitar he also taught steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, and later even the Russian balalaika. And it certainly pleased him seeing so many of his students go into professional music careers.
It might be mentioned here that he was asked to put together the first guitar mass in Lorain County. It was at St. Peter’s Church in Lorain; where he taught sixth grade CCD (now called Parish School of Religion) for 5 years.
Eventually he was forced into having to decide on continuing with USS, or go entirely with a music career which is what he did. This decision eventually led into a partnership; Thiery/Marrotta Music. Following this there were other music undertakings. “Al Thiery School of Guitar,” He was 25years on in the Profession Bldg. on Oberlin Ave as “Thiery Music Studio,” and in the heyday of Oakwood Shopping Center there he had the “House of Music.”
There were a number of other non-musical entrepreneurial endeavors as well.
He took a number of different courses at LCCC that he felt could help his business and personal interests but never went for a degree. He retained regrets for not following after a degree. But later in life when working at Nordson he took an evaluation test and scored 12-4-plus (high school, college, plus)
About 1969, acquiring some rural property in Brownhelm, he and his wife began raising beef cattle, pigmy goats, pheasants, chickens, and dogs. They also had horses, a donkey and a few other unusual pets.
In Jan. of 1976 Al was written about in a “Bill Scrivo’s People” commentary; under the heading of “Al Thiery: Music Man Who Beat Polio.” In the interviews Al mentioned some of his inter-denominational activities which he was continually involved in all the rest of his life.
A few of his other… second life activities were:
Was a charter member of Beaver Creek Sportsman Club in South Amherst.
Having a hobby and interest in reptiles he belonged for a while to the Cleveland Herpetologist Association.
Al did a lot to help bring into Lorain and Erie County an interest in Geo-Caching which today has swelled.
He enjoyed as well: camping, backpacking, hunting, Indian artifacts, guns. He was privileged to belong to the Amherst Rifle Pistol club for a while and also became exceptional at trapshooting.
He raised beef cattle as a home sideline (hobby) and was told often at the slaughter house that his beef was among the best they worked on.
It was In 1978 Al decided it best to depart from the music business and was able to gain employment at Nordson. He was hired into their then developing powder coating department.
It was while working at Nordson; which he liked and appreciated and had said often “they were good to me there;” that it was finally diagnosed in 1992, that he had Post-Polio syndrome (PPS). The prognosis he was given was that most likely he would be back in a wheel chair within ten years. This progressive debilitating part of the disease was the not only the beginning of more physical changes but also the beginning of…
Al’s third life…
Upon retiring from Nordson in 1998, he began doing Bible studies, sing-alongs and other volunteer work at Kingston (for 5 years he also did Kingston’s memorial services). With wife Dee they did some pet therapy there also. He did some similar activities as well at Chappel Inn (now Kingston Residential). He was a Spiritual Care volunteer at Community Hospital, now Mercy Hospital, and many times stated how this work blessed him particularly.
While he was physically able Al did patient care at New Life Hospice but ended up lastly just doing limited companion visitation for Hospice.
In 2007 he was honored by receiving an Ohio “Outstanding Senior Volunteer” award.
But following this, because of the PPS progression, he eventually had to scale back somewhat on some volunteer activities.
He was able to continue to play some band jobs and teach a little into his seventies but he eventually faded away from these accomplishments also.
He belonged to the International Writers Association and was awarded a lifetime membership. Although often encouraged to write a book he never got around to doing that; but wrote hundreds of one page essays every week on different subject matter to use in his volunteer work. These handouts were given out every week expectantly hopeful that they provided encouragement, inspiration, and information and as well optimistically might stimulate discussion along with provoking thought.
Although not Jewish, Al did attend for a few years, with great appreciation, Agudath Bnai Israel Synagogue in Lorain.
He played at Sunday worship service at Foursquare Gospel Church under two long term pastors. The Church then was called Family Fellowship.
He played at St. Mary’s Church Vermilion at the 8:00 mass for a number of years with a wonderful organist/and pianist Adele Kovanic; a women who taught music and served that church for seventy-five years.
Being anti-war, he became an “attendee” of the Oberlin Society of Friends (Quakers) in 2002.
Al was a voracious, enthusiastic and steadfast reader; having very little interest in viewing TV. Because of his reading interests he enjoyed a large collection of books.
All that he most wanted to do he did.
He had lived three full lives here…. and now has entered his forth life…Eternity!
Public visitation will be held Thursday, April 7, 2022, 5 p.m. until time of service at 7 p.m. at Hempel Funeral Home in Amherst. Rebroadcasting of services will be available at www.hempelfuneralhome.com. The burial will be held privately at Elmwood Cemetery.
Family asks that memorial contributions be made to New Life Hospice 3500 Kolbe Rd, Lorain, OH 44053.
Please visit the funeral home's website to share a memory and sign the guest register, www.hempelfuneralhome.com.
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