Editor’s Note: The Townsman this week presents the first of what will be occasional profiles of townspeople who have left their mark on Andover.
There could have been no more fitting ending to Al Retelle’s life.
Last week, the longtime Andover man, naturalist and patriarch behind Retelle Tree Corp. in town was laid to rest in a coffin lovingly crafted by his sons from the huge trunk of an oak tree cut down in North Andover.
It was simply what the owner of the family tree business would have wanted, his loved ones say.
Albert Richard “Al” Retelle, 83, of Andover, who died Jan. 30 after a resurgence of his lymphoma, departed this world in grand arborist style.
“He wanted a simple pine box ... but the boys went out and built a casket from that oak. It was beautiful,” said his widow, Evelyn Retelle, to whom he was married for 60 years. “He rested on a pillow that I had made and was covered with his favorite blankets ... he would have loved it.”
Retelle loved the outdoors, especially bird watching, and that avocation was incorporated into his services. The lifetime birder was surrounded by meaningful objects from his life, including two hand-carved wooden figures of a loon and an egret painted to perfection, his binoculars and a “Sibley’s Guide to Birds.”
He probably had identified more than 1,000 species of birds over the course of his life and often talked at The Center at Punchard about his bird-watching trips with his wife that included stops in the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica, in addition to outings across every nook and cranny of the Merrimack Valley.
The nature theme continued at the post-funeral meal, appropriately held at the headquarters for his longtime tree business on Bellevue Road, with tree logs piled about.