“It was a time of timber and toil…with men as tough as their ax handles…and more mountains in every direction…that I would ever see again.”
Albert Pontarolo was born June 1, 1922 and passed away in peace surrounded by his family around 9:30pm on July 21, 2014. He was 92 years of age.
As a young man his days were spent shoving coal for the Northern Pacific Railroad. As a railroad fireman he would shovel coal 16 hours a day and cool off with a swim across the Columbia river. Needless to say he was a man of unknown strength, with hands like a catchers mitt and a grip that of a bench vise.
As tensions grew in Europe Albert Pontarolo enlisted in the Navy and spent his time at Midway and Guam as a mechanic and seamen. Although he spoke little of his encounters at war, like most of his generation, it was clear that he made and lost friends who molded him into the man, father, husband, and grandfather be soon became. Upon his return from WWII Albert met and married Alice Fazzari in 1946 who he cherished for 67 years until his death. Albert and Alice had two sons and three daughters, raising them on a small farm in Walla Walla, Washington.
After returning from war he briefly returned to the railroad but ultimately found himself behind the bar with his brother-in-law, Arturo Fazzari, serving cold beers and 30 cent salami sandwiches to local patrons. Albert was consigliere to Art Fazzari and The McFeely Tavern – ‘the biggest little tavern in town’ for over 50 years. He stayed involved with the McFeely but ultimately he returned to his true vocation, being a railroad man.
After working as a fireman, brakemen and passing his railroad engineer test, Albert, rode the rails in the Pacific Northwest as an engineer until his retirement. Always a tinkerer and mechanic he devoted his retirement to repairing anything that needed fixing and helped run the McFeely. Albert, like many men of his generation, lived by the simple code, ‘don’t be afraid to get started’. Tearing into motors, radios, building homes, plowing fields, picking onions, and cracking walnuts with his bare hands, my Grandpa was a goddamn man.
He defined brawn and grit, but I could always see a tear well in his eye as I left after my frequent visits.
June 1, 1922 thru July 21, 2014