The guy everyone knows and everyone likes, the guy who spans generations with his ability to communicate and understand.A dedicated family man, a great friend and a man tied deeply to his faith.
Sadly, Mr. Roels left us Wednesday, at age 81, following a brief illness.
"Loved humor, absolutely loved humor,'' lifelong friend Leo Kerker, said of Mr. Roels, who lived in Rock Island. "He and (wife) Nancy, me and my wife, Bev, were friends forever. We loved being around him and Nancy, because of how genuine they are. Al was one of life's good guys. I think he did so well because his outlook and approach to life were always positive.''
Deeply dedicated to his family and his wife of nearly 60 years, Mr. Roels was a father of five -- Debbie, Sue, Dick, Chris and Stacey -- grandfather of seven and great-grandfather of two, with another great-grandchild on the way.
"Family was mighty important to him,'' Mr. Roels' son, Dick, said, noting his father also was a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan who would run the team's signature "W'' flag up the family flagpole after a Cubs win. "And he and my mom were the best together. He even had Mass planned at 7 a.m. in April (2013), on what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary. He set it for 7 so we all could get to work. He set a great example.''
On the working side of life, Mr. Roels gave 42 creative and dedicated years to the newspaper business. Upon graduation from St. Ambrose Academy, Mr. Roels began his career with The Rock Island Argus in 1954. He moved to The Moline Dispatch Publishing Company in 1974 and helped guide the company's advertising fortunes for 22 years, retiring in 1996. At the time of his passing, Mr. Roels was a pre-need counselor for Calvary Cemetery Association, Rock Island.
"Long before The Rock Island Argus and The Dispatch merged, Al worked for both companies, representing each like his only client," Gerald Taylor, Argus and Dispatch publisher, said. "He knew how best to deliver his clients' messages to the readers of both in one of the nation's most competitive media markets. Eventually Al served as advertising director for the merged companies, looking out for both publications and the people who worked for them.
"He was a devoted husband and family man, a dedicated volunteer and a gracious gentleman. Some knew him best as the fellow who brought in his wife's lip-smacking, good-to-the-last-crumb coffee cakes. Thanks, Nancy, and thanks, Al."
Mr. Roels officiated at prep football and basketball games and umpired fast-pitch softball games locally for many years.
"He was darn good as an official,'' Mr. Kerker said. "He was good because he liked being around people.''
Paul Martin, a deacon at Rock Island's St. Pius X Catholic Church, was a high-school classmate and longtime pal of Mr. Roels. He said his late friend was ever the organizer.
"I loved that he was always offering prayers for me and for others,'' Mr. Martin said. "Al cared about so many people, looking out for their well-being. I can't think of a nicer man. He always was organizing meals with our classmates, just to keep tabs and make sure everyone was OK. I could never be as organized as Al.''
Mr. Martin said Mr. Roels' job with Calvary Cemetery showcased his compassionate side. "Al helped so many people with a detail you don't want to leave to your family -- where to be buried,'' Mr. Martin said. "Losing someone is a stressful time, and Al helped me, my family and so many other families eliminate that worry.''
Mr. Martin said above all he was impressed with Mr. Roels' dedication to his faith.
"He lived it,'' Mr. Martin said. "He didn't talk about; he lived it. And not a day or week went by that he didn't help the church or Jordan (Catholic School) with something. What a wonderful guy in so many ways.''
Stan Banazek and Mr. Roels grew up a street apart in East Moline. Mr. Banazek said he believes someone took a young Al Roels aside and told him good things happen to good people.
"He treated people so well,'' Mr. Banazek said, while lauding Mr. Roels for being a 50-year member of the Catholic Order of Foresters. "He never saw the bad side to things and put his faith in others. He was always there for you."
Along with his faith and family, Mr. Roels did have another passion in life.
"You can go out today and see that my dad's lawn is the greenest in the neighborhood,'' Dick Roels said. "He loved taking care of it. It's 2,000 square feet, and every inch of it is beautiful. But that was Dad.''
Arrangements are pending at Rafferty Funeral Home, Moline.