Family, friends recall Al Sheahen, ‘a man of great social conscience’

Bob Sheahen, 13 years younger than his eldest brother Al, noted the irony of holding his Celebration of Life at a swanky country club. “He would never dream of having an event at a place like this,” Bob told 70 family members and friends a week ago Sunday. “My brother would have been fighting down in the streets below, protesting against the well-to-do.” (This story tells of $11,000 initiation fees and $568 monthly golf dues.) Those and other remarks are captured in this 70-minute video from that memorial to Al, who died Oct. 29 at age 81. (I also spoke, delivering a message from David and Linda Pain.) Photo gallery also is posted.

In my experience, memorial services are revelatory — with the departed remembered for much more than you ever knew.

In Al’s case, it was more than his role of announcing major masters meets or publishing National Masters News for decades. It was more than his being part of the Sheahen Brothers team that helped a senior softball team win seven Los Angeles titles in 13 years.

Al attended a Catholic high school in Cleveland, where “they told him to take care of his fellow man. … Al actually listened,” said Bob, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. “He began to live his life for the good of others. (He was) devoted to family, friends and his fellow man.”

Bob — who spoke with relatives including his sister Terry from Lakewood, Ohio, and brother Tom from Maryland — said: “When I had the darkest times of my life, the only person at my side was my brother. Al was the best man at my wedding. Al was the best man in my life.”

Amid references to Al’s book on a basic income guarantee to every American (to replace the welfare system), Bob said: “Al had a different kind of courage — Al had moral courage. Al had the ability at all times to stand up for what was right. … He was tall, and he stood tall against injustice and against inhumanity. (But) as tall as he was, we was always willing to bend over to help those in need.”

Bob said Al wasn’t religious, “but he was the most Christian Christian I have ever known. Al spent his life taking care of the least of his brethren.”

One of Al’s friends from the anti-poverty group results.org spoke as well. Anita Lee, who succeeded Al as the San Fernando Valley lead of the group, said she had met Al only last June, but had big shoes to fill.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy, in charge of the Bell corruption case, told of how she met at Al on the senior softball team and had shared emails commiserating over the Dodgers.

He was a “special friend to me,” she said. “I will miss him terribly.”

Four of Al’s nephews or nieces — Kyle, Scott, Kelly and Laura — spoke or sang at the memorial. With harpist Katrina Saroyan providing the sole accompaniment, Kelly and Laura performed “Edelweiss” and “Danny Boy.” Recalling how Al had been a radio DJ at several L.A. area stations in the 1950s, Kelly also sang a Buddy Holly tune “Raining in my Heart.

Tom Sheahen, a retired physicist, and sister Terry, who worked in speech pathology, recalled childhood experiences. Al’s softball and touch-football teammates stirred warm laughter.

But it was Tom who returned to the night’s theme, closing with a paraphrase from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

“He was the noblest Sheahen of them all,” Bob said without consulting notes. “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world: This was a man.”

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November 17, 2013

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