Submitted by Don and Peg Doman.
Our friend Al Burrage passed away on July 30th. He had been ill for sometime. We had been trying to catch up and see him for the last six months. His brother John sent me the sad news the next day. We had been friends with Al for forty-five years.
I met Al at a meeting one night of the Sumner Jaycees in the mid-1970s. His wife Leona and my wife Peg knew each other from the Jaycee Wives Auxiliary. We became instant friends. We spoke over the phone a few days later and he bragged that he had won Outstanding New Member for the Washington State Jaycees. I told him to take the trophy and look right below his name he would find mine. We had an easy relationship and laughed at and with each other all the time.
We had both been state regional vice presidents. He from Region II (King County area) and me from Region III (from Maple Valley to Sequim). Al was president of the West Seattle Jaycees and finally moved up to Region III as the director. There were seven regions in Washington State and we had a membership of 3,500 members. I had been president of the Tacoma Jaycees and was a state chair for project management using the Chairman’s Planning Guide, winning the international award for state chairmen.
When Al was still deciding whether to run for state president, everyone knew I would be working with him, but Region III had a candidate as well. So, I worked on both campaigns until it became clear there were only going to be two candidates. It would be Region II vs. Region III (the two largest regions). I would be Executive Vice President, my buddy Jim Whitacre, also a past president of the Tacoma Jaycees, would be the State Treasurer, and my best friend Randy Melquist, also a past president (Tacoma Jaycees), would be my Internal Vice President. Tacoma had one of the largest and most active chapters working with the Puyallup and Lakewood Jaycees. Al was elected State President.
Al had a great year. Our staff stole an idea from a California community fundraiser and created the Bacon Bowl which featured teams of Seattle police and sheriff deputies versus our Tacoma officers in full-on game of football. Seattle Mayor Charles Royer called it “the sports event of the century.” Joe Stortini was head coach for Tacoma. Sam Buckley was the head coach of Seattle with Ron Sylve as his Offensive Coordinator. The first game was played at the Kingdome. We bought fifty Nerf footballs. I asked Jim Zorn to autograph them all and then our Jaycees threw them into the stands. The kids there for the game went wild. The second game was played in the Tacoma Dome. The monies raised helped fund local Jaycee charities as well as Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center in Tacoma and Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. The event ran for many years. I occasionally look at the placards at Tacoma General Hospital and stop at the one thanking the Washington Jaycees. We raised a quarter of a million dollars for the children.
Al had a very successful year as Washington State Jaycee President. We both celebrated being honored as Jaycee International Senators. Peg and I drug our children all across the state in our truck and camper to various picnics and special meetings, from freezing nights in the parking lot at Jaycee Headquarters in Ellensburg to sweltering days at Burbank where we camped on the Snake River for the Carp Kissing Contest. The temperature was 108 degrees. We upped stakes and returned to Ellensburg where it was a balmy 98 and then headed home.
At a North Bend restaurant, Marsha ordered a French dip and didn’t finish half of it. Al, a prodigious eater asked her, (You gonna eat that hummer?” It became one of our families continuing prompts. We even had a special routine: What does a cow say? Mooooo. What does a lamb say? Bahhhhh. What does a pig say? You gonna eat that hummer? Always the connoisseur, he had great wine and great food when we went to stay with him.
He knew our kids, Andrea, Del and Patrick, who called him Uncle Al, the kiddies’ pal, as well as my sister Marsha who died at the end of June. Al went with us and kids to see the John Belushi movie that was rated R. Al was famous for sarcastic comments and asides. When Peg asked him to stop attacking our children, Al said, “Your kids don’t need protection. Look who their parents are!” Peg was against the movie, Andrea, our eldest was but 12 or thirteen, with Del at 11 or twelve and Patrick at 10, but I insisted that it would be OK. Peg came to see it was mostly silliness, with some great singers, Aretha singing “You Gotta Think, Think What You’re Doing to Me”, and Cab Calloway singing his signature “Minnie the Moocher” and other hits. Al laughed at my concern and laughed at the movie with the head penguin-nun whapping Belushi with a yard stick as well as anyone else who came near. Belushi had remembered similar abuse from his years at a parochial school. It was a favorite memory of our family since our kids attended St. Patrick’s grade school, which ran from first to 8th grades, and Andrea at Bellarmine Prep HS (spent three years) and Del (one year). The kids were beside themselves going to an R rated film and roared with laughter all the way through it. That one afternoon is still a favorite memory.
After Jaycees (age limit is 40) Peg and I have remained friends with Al. He’s slept on our old couch numerous times (he hated it) and we’ve stayed at his West Seattle home often with two wives and a number of girl friends. For years we attended Folk Life at the Seattle Center listening to various musical groups.
Al was always looking for a good deal and a good meal. A favorite dining experience was an all you could eat and drink event at a West Seattle oyster bar. The oysters never stopped coming and the Prosecco was flowing fairly freely as well. I’m pretty sure we stayed over night with Al after dinner.
Since then we usually connected when Peg and I visited Seattle for plays and concerts. Al would join us for breakfast or a funny production of Theater Schmeater and even the latest exhibit at the Frye Art Museum.
I’ll always remember his laughter and the fun we had helping communities across Washington State. We will miss him, dearly. Our kids will, too.