CREST HILL – Dan Albert received a fishing boat for his birthday and a fishing adventure two weeks later.
The birthday was Oct. 13. The adventure was mid-November. Dan and his son Nate Albert of Crest Hill took the boat down to the Coal City Area Club.
But once they got the boat in the water, the men realized they’d forgotten to attach the motor. So they returned to the dock. Then the boat began to fill with water. The boat was missing a plug.
Realizing they’d lose daylight if they returned home to Crest Hill for the plug, they drove to Wal-Mart in Morris and bought a new one. They were ready for fish by 3 p.m. The sun would set at 5 p.m.
“I thought, ‘Well, we’ve still got a couple of hours,’ ” Nate said.
When it grew dark, they started to head back, but the motor died.
“Dad, always thinking, said, ‘Don’t worry. I brought the oars with us,’ ” Nate said. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘We don’t need any oars.’ ”
In all the confusion, they forgot the poles at the club. Dan messaged Nate and Nate returned that night for them.
It was Dan’s first and only time on the boat. Dan died suddenly March 23 at the age of 65, the result of an accident while helping a family member with a project. He had just retired the year before as a land surveyor.
Dan died as he had lived. A quiet man, he liked nothing better than to “lend a helping hand,” be it his church, his community or his family.
“He was one of those people that if you asked him to do it, he’d do it,” Nate said. “He didn’t necessarily have to be the leader; he’d rather be the helper.
At his childhood church – St. Anne Catholic Church in Crest Hill – Dan was a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He was also a Eucharistic minister and past volunteer for the 50th anniversary and parish picnic committees. In high school, Dan had served as a lector.
Nate said Dan was also a 15-year member of the Crest Hill Lions Club. He often chaired the Candy Day, and he served as past president and board member. Dan also received the Lion of the Year award about nine years ago, Nate said.
But what Dan most enjoyed was helping his family and spending time with his family. He loved to hang out with them at his pool as well the Coal City Area Club.
“He’d drop everything to babysit his grandkids,” Nate said.
Each New Year’s Day, Dan hosted his Seafood Extravaganza where he cooked lobster, crab, shrimp and clam chowder. That’s where his other hobby, journaling, was handy. Nate said Dan started journaling in 1967 as part of a school assignment and then kept going.
“He kept notes on how many crab legs he purchased and ate, and whether or not we needed to adjust for the next year,” Nate said.
Tony Albert of Plainfield, Dan’s son, said those journals were great during family reminiscing when details were hazy.
“Dad would say, ‘Well give me a minute,’ and he’d go upstairs,” Tony said. “No one saw those journals, but he wrote all this stuff in them. It’s pretty neat to see them now.”
Dan especially loved helping his sons – Eric as well as Nate and Tony – with their household projects. He installed the electricity at Nate’s first house. Tony said Dan trimmed all his bushes and took all their cars for oil changes. He’d troubleshoot leaks.
But the absolute love of Dan’s life was the former Nancy Dodd.
“They were soul mates,” Nate said. “You don’t see that much anymore. Like the passion. You could still see that when they were together.”
The couple met during their teens, although Nancy attended Lockport Township High School and Dan attended the former Joliet Catholic High School. But Nancy lived near St. Ambrose Catholic Church, the Crest Hill church where the couple was married.
“When Dad went away to school at Southern Illinois, he wrote love letters to her; it must have been every day,” Nate said.
Tony said Nancy stored all those letters in a chest and kept them all these years.
“We couldn’t believe how many were in there,” Tony said.
• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.