BY GARY OAKLEY
Al Bisterfeldt was blind. He was not handsome. He was short tempered, abrasive, impatient, totally politically incorrect, however, he was loved by many.
I had a manufacturing company, Sterling Stainless Tube, that made stainless steel tubing for hypodermic needles. Al was referred to our company by the Colorado Department of Rehabilitation for the Blind to seek employment with the company.
The year was 1962 and it was the beginning of a new direction in medicine since the discovery that reusable needles were responsible for spreading infectious hepatitis and the solution was to not reuse the needle. As a result there was a great demand for tubing since hepatitis was becoming an epidemic. The decision was made to hire Al to work on the production line. In spite of being blind, Al had an amazing mechanical ability. After seeing his capability he was promoted to foreman on the night shift. That was alright with Al, obviously.
Last week when I talked to him on the phone I knew that the end was near. His son Don, was staying with him and helping with the phone and answering the door. I said, “ I will call or come by and check you out Al.” Al said, “ I told you three times that I cannot get to the phone and I cannot get to the door.” He could be abrasive. Al was right however. He did not want patronizing, he just wanted me to be there. It reminds me of scripture. To paraphrase Isaiah, “don’t give me incense, or words, but give me your heart.” Al knew your heart and as a blind man he had that special sensitivity that many blind people have. ‘He had no sight but he had vision.’” That is a quote from the great Helen Keller.
As a foreman he was able to rent a small house next to the company and he came to work faithfully for over 25 years. He was able to very successfully upset employees working on his shift, however he never lost their respect and he was an asset to the company.
I was informed yesterday that Al passed away peacefully. We will miss him. He taught us a lesson about overcoming difficult problems and facing reality with optimism. After knowing Al and his physically troubled life his friends can honestly say that he was a blessing and an inspiration to all who really knew him.
Al died on April 8, 2019. A memorial service was held April 14 at Olinger Chapel.
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