Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the end of an era

Today my grandfather, Popa Al Alper, passed away. He was 101 and a half.

June 2008

Back when he turned 99, many of you sent him postcards in the mail. 99 postcards for 99 years. He absolutely loved getting messages from people he knew and people he didn't (and people he thought he should know, but worried he didn't remember). It was so exciting, he said, to open his mailbox.

November 2009, with my nephew Judah

And then he said he should probably give the mailman a holiday present, for delivering all those cards from all over the country, and the world (he received nearly 200).


Popa Al loved to play pool and poker with the other "fellows" in the (non-assisted living) retirement complex where he lived. In fact, the last time my mom spoke with him a few days ago, he was happy to talk, but then he had to get to his poker game. He liked to tell us how he sometimes beat those younger fellows, those spring chickens in their 80s.

May 2007, with Elan

Even after my Nana died, Popa used to come visit my family in California for several weeks a year. He traveled well into his 90s. And the walking he used to do! I remember one time in San Diego, we started to get a little worried because he was gone for so long. When he came back, he said it was such a beautiful day, he just kept walking. And walking. And walking. And then he took a little rest sitting on a bench looking at the ocean. And then he walked back.


He loved to be with his family, and he was quite content to sit in the middle of the family hub-bub and just soak it in. He couldn't hear very well, and he was always very stubborn about not wearing a hearing aid, which did seem to serve him pretty well when surrounded by the chaos of 3 children, 3 children-in-laws, 6 grandchildren and associated husbands/wives/partners, and 9 great-grandchildren.

100th Birthday Party, November 2009

He liked to talk to you, hear what was going on in your life. And he also just liked to soak up the ambiance of family.

May 2007

He liked to eat.

October 2007, out to lunch with Elan

And he liked parties too.

the patriarch of the family

Of course our impressions of our grandparents are always uniquely rooted in our particular relationship, but I can honestly say that, to me, Popa Al has always been an example of how to live a peaceful, loving life, to enjoy simple pleasures, to focus on the positive and appreciate the blessings you have.

August 2010

He was a pretty amazing spirit, my Popa Al. How lucky we were to have him here for 101 years.


  1. Beautiful, Becca!
    Mel & I will miss Uncle Al very much. He was a wonderful person.

  2. Wow...Bec, I just saw this. What a wonderful tribute to Popa (or Papa : ) ) Love you and miss you. Shari

  3. So sorry to hear about Popa Al Becca. Sending my love to you and your family.


  4. hi becca,

    just read this. very beautiful tribute to popa. i am happy and honored to have met him. he makes me smile when i think about him. he lived such a loving full life and was lucky to have you all as family.

    much love to the fam,

  5. Hey Bec!
    Had not been on your blog in a while and decided to check it out. Saw the Great Papa and your words that described him perfectly. I smiled and cried. Thank you! I needed both.

    love you


  6. So I’ve just been sitting here watching an episode of Cake Boss, when this jolly, happy poker playing gent comes on TV, he seemed such a lovely man, so as many do, I took to google.
    Just wanted to say, what a loving tribute you have done for your Popa, and even for just a fleeting second, his smile has brightened my day.

    1. Why thank you! And impressive Internet sleuthing work too...

  7. Popa Al's Cake Boss episode: 74 19 "Moving Cake, Marbles & Mess-Ups" July 11, 2011
    A veteran go-kart driver wanted a cake made for the championships, so Buddy makes a cake in a shape of a go-kart, actual size, but Buddy wanted to go the extra mile by making it drivable. Also: Buddy makes a cake for a friend of Joey's father, a former marbles champion, who's becoming 101 years old.