What do Engineering, Crocheting, and a Harmonica Have in Common?

Alfred (Al) Wooll, a Detroit native, is a kind, humble, and multi-talented 99-year-old man. He spent years working as a metallurgical engineer, designing metal parts and studying metallic elements and compounds. He also contributed to ground-breaking projects, such as the first atomic bomb and the first atomic-powered submarine that were created during the 1950s.

“I didn’t realize until two years after the war, that it was the atomic bomb used at Alamogordo,” Alfred said. “It was all war work at Alcoa’s Hamtramck plant.”

Al is very good with his hands – from metal castings to hats to harmonicas, he never stops learning. He began playing the harmonica at 95, started using the iPad at 96, and has been crocheting for 90 years. Al has crocheted over 600 hats for cancer patients at the University of Michigan Cancer Center.

“I like the idea of being able to do something for someone else that’s useful,” Al said. “I enjoy doing things with my hands, and people keep giving me tons of free yarn, so I can keep making tons of hats.”

Al also volunteers his time and talents through Arbor Hospice. His wife received care from Arbor Hospice in 2010, and when she passed, Al decided to give back by volunteering to visit with patients.

“I was taken by their compassionate care,” Al said about Arbor Hospice. “I just wanted to do something where I could help families take a break, run an errand, or get some relaxation.”

Al continues his volunteering at Chelsea Retirement Community by sitting with residents who are on hospice, playing the harmonica, or crocheting to keep them company.

“He is a wonderful man and a great inspiration in all that he does,” said Brittany August, Lead Volunteer Coordinator at Arbor Hospice. “Al is a permanent fixture with our staff, volunteers, and patients’ families. We can always count on him.”

Al was named Volunteer of the Year for Arbor Hospice in 2014. He was nominated by numerous staff members and chosen from 150 volunteers. The nominations were filled with endless compliments of Al—his character, his work ethic, and his kindness.

“Al has a sense of loyalty that cannot be matched. If there was a mold for Hospice volunteer, Al would most certainly fill all the nooks and crannies,” said Julie Welch, RN CHPN and Clinical Manager at Arbor Hospice.

At Chelsea Retirement Community, Al can be found playing his harmonica every week across campus or going room-to-room for visits.

“People often ask me how I have so much energy,” Al said. “Pure unadulterated luck is all it is. That, and I don’t have any bad habits.”