The friendly kennel club!
Sometimes there are people associated with a kennel club without whom the very structure of the club might have long ago dissolved. Al Combs was one of those people. If there was work to be done, he did it. If you needed help, he was there. He could deal with the prickliest people with aplomb and good humor. And his humor! It was so dry, you sometimes didn’t even see it coming but before you knew it, everyone was in stitches. His wife, Sandy has served in many capacities as a club officer– she is currently the President. And Al was ever the First Gentleman of Fort St. Clair Kennel Club.
I doubt if Al ever took a dog into a ring, though he probably would have if you really needed him to. He liked to say that he didn’t have any dogs, pretending that the small herd of Dachshunds in the kitchen were all the sole purview of his wife. And indeed, the dogs were and are Sandy’s “thing.” But Al was always right there beside her– helping with trimming nails and taking pictures and training puppies; looking after the whole crew if Sandy was out of town for a show. And he did have a dog, a very special extraordinarily long-legged Dachshund mix named Violet. Violet was born at Sandy and Al’s, one of ten puppies of a pregnant rescue, and she stayed on as Al’s companion for his jaunts around the hay-meadow and the pond and the woods.
Al was an avid gardener, and the spring will bring a reminder of the magic he made at the Combs’ place when thousands and thousands of daffodils spring up. He grew prize winning roses, and a large garden of vegetables. You could always expect them to turn up with a gift of fresh asparagus or blackberries or tomatoes. He was a remarkable fix-it person and kept a wide inventory of unusual things that might be needed at some point. He made hundreds of gallons of apple butter with the West Alexandria Lions Club.
He liked to cook and last spring in the day before the dog show, Sandy invited me there for lunch. Anyone who’s ever hosted a dog show knows how hectic and draining it is. But it was such a pleasure to take a break from that craziness and sit down for a great bowl of homemade soup and shoot the breeze with Al. And everyone that knew him has a story like that. If you needed something Al did it for you. Sometimes if you didn’t even know you needed something, Al did it for you.
As Gary Sinck, one of our members, put it “He was just such a neat guy.”
On Friday, January 10th, Al died, after a long and courageous fight with pulmonary fibrosis.
To say the club won’t be the same without him is an understatement: the world won’t be the same without him. We miss him already.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra Duncan Combs, and also by his two beautiful daughters, Veronica Combs (and her husband Michael Borchers and their boys Carson and Liam) and Rebecca Combs and her husband Jody Powlette, along with a brother and sister. And Violet too, of course.
A link to his obituary is here. There will be a memorial service held Sunday, January 26th at 1 p.m. at Barnes Funeral Home, 220 East Main Street in Eaton.
~ Larkin Vonalt