Evelyn Retelle said her husband came home from hospice care on Wednesday, Jan. 29, and died the next evening against the backdrop of his gardens, where he spent many hours tending to his perennial beds, vegetables and landscape, as well as his beloved Baker’s Meadows that unfolded just outside his home.
More than 145 species of birds, including herons, migrating ducks and nesting Canada geese, have been observed in Baker’s Meadow,essentially a pond between Reservation and Argilla roads, while its wetlands provide vital habitat for muskrat, mink and beaver. The land is owned by the town’s conservation group, Andover Village Improvement Society.
“He wanted to be able to see Baker’s Meadows, his gardens ... that’s why I brought him home,” Evelyn Retelle said.
Retelle’s loved of all things outdoors was legendary, a passion he sought to pass down to his children and later his grandchildren at an early age.
He spearheaded land conservation efforts in Andover as the first chairman of the Andover Conservation Commission and served as AVIS president for five years. He remained active with AVIS as the warden of Baker’s Meadow Reservation until his death. He was the longtime president of the Merrimack Valley Bird Club and a volunteer with the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
Town involvement was just as important as his bird watching. He was a call firefighter in Andover and also served the town as an election official for more than 25 years. He received the 2010 Andover Heritage Award for his work with the Andover Historical Society preserving gardens.
Al and Evelyn Retelle were also the owner-operators of The Merrimack Valley Ski Area and, as a certified ski instructor, he taught many local people how to ski. He continued his love of skiing with his grandchildren, later working at Bradford Ski Area as a true ambassador of the sport.