Santa Rosa resident Dalton "Al" Alander, a master craftsman with a wicked sense of humor and generous nature, died at home Sept. 18 following a long illness. He was 71 years old.
Alander was born in Astoria, Ore., and grew up in Coos Bay, the son of a carpenter and grandson of a Finnish ship builder who had immigrated to America.
Carpentry "was in his family," said his daughter, Tammy Alander, of Forestville.
He moved as a teen to California, where he met his future wife, Linda Hazen. They married Nov. 29, 1960.
When he was 17 years old, Alander joined the carpenters union. He became a journeyman carpenter in 1963.
He worked for Larkin's Construction Company for more than 30 years, where he demonstrated his talents and creativity, building primarily custom homes in Marin and Sonoma counties, according to family.
Many of the homes he built were in Peacock Gap and Tiburon, his daughter said.
Alander moved his family to Petaluma in about 1966 because it was more affordable than Marin County, Tammy Alander said.
"It allowed him to buy a house," she said.
He never built a house for himself, but he dramatically changed the look of the home he bought in Petaluma, Alander said. It included a large windmill that doubled as a playhouse in the front yard.
"It was awesome," Alander said.
She said her father always was building something, from the practical to whimsical. They included a pink flamingo mailbox for his daughter and the set for a Matanzas Elementary School production of "The Lion King." He also turned the Montgomery High School cafeteria into a lion's den for Project Grad and built floats for the Rose Parade. Alander recalled a large train replica he built that made it appear the children carrying the float were passengers.
Alander also used his skills to carry out practical jokes.
He once built a toilet inscribed with a letter purported to be from Ronald Reagan for one of his best friends.
"Their political views were different," his daughter noted. But he did it more to rile his friend than to make a political statement, she said.
"If he knew it would get to you," he'd do it, she said.
Alander also had a big heart and a strong sense of doing what was right, she said. During a flood in Petaluma in the 1980s, he took his motorized rubber raft out to help rescue people who were trapped. He took one elderly couple home for a hot dinner.
He took on the mission despite the fact he could not swim, his daughter said.
"That was my dad. He was just kind and wonderful," she said.
Alander also loved spending time with his grandson, volunteering with his Cub Scout pack and attending every one of his baseball and soccer games.
He also found time for other hobbies, including camping, fishing, target shooting and fast cars. He loved tinkering with his hot rods and four-wheeling with his friends, family said.
No matter what he was doing, he was usually singing or whistling, his daughter said.
In addition to daughter Tammy Alander, Al Alander is survived by his wife, Linda, of Santa Rosa; daughter Karen Alander, of New Mexico; son Randy Alander, of Santa Rosa; grandson Daniel Alander, of Santa Rosa; brothers Robert Alander of Kentville and Frank Alander, of Oregon; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.