Boom­ing voice of ‘Big Al’ still at 83

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS POLK cpolk@star­dem.com

BOZMAN — “When Big Al was in the room, you al­ways knew it,” his nephew Michael Lore­tan­geli said. “He was big in size, big in friend­li­ness and big in voice.”

“Big Al” — Alan Thomas Poore Sr. — died on Satur­day, Oct. 28, sur­rounded by his fam­ily at his home in Bozman. He was 83.

A quin­tes­sen­tial East­ern Shore boy, Big Al em­braced life on the wa­ter and, along with his wife Rea, built his own down-home brand of busi­ness on its bounty, touch­ing the lives of ev­ery one he met with his big, boom­ing, gre­gar­i­ous per­son­al­ity. “That boom­ing voice,” Lore­tan­geli said. “I would have friends over and they would say, ‘Why is he yelling?’ and I would say, ‘He’s not yelling, he’s talk­ing,’” his great­grand­daugh­ter Kelcy Mur­phy said.

“I’m pretty sure you al­most never had to ask Big Al to re­peat a sen­tence, be­cause you al­ways heard him loud and clear the first time,” Lore­tan­geli said.

Lore­tan­geli and Mur­phy were among the speak­ers at Poore’s fu­neral, held Fri­day, Nov. 3, at Bozman United Methodist Church.

“Big Al” Poore was born in Bozman on Sept. 29, 1934, the son of the late Wil­liam Gil­bert Poore and Etta Re­becca Har­ri­son Poore.

Af­ter at­tend­ing St. Michaels High School, he mar­ried his child­hood sweet­heart at the age of 19. She was the former Rea Jean Sweitzer.

“The boy from Bozman met the girl from Til­gh­man in sev­enth grade and mar­ried her at the age of 18 on Jan. 31, 1953,” Lore­tan­geli said.

He said you can’t tell a story about Big Al with­out telling a story about Rea.

“The two have been in­sep­a­ra­ble through­out their lives, at home, at work and in busi­ness,” Lore­tan­geli said.

Lore­tan­geli said at a very young age, one of Big Al’s first jobs was work­ing on the Clai­borne-An­napo­lis Ferry.

It was July 1952, and the first length of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay bridge was al­most near com­ple­tion.

Poore was aboard the ferry John M. Dennis un­der the helm of Capt. Ed­ward C. Hig­gins.

“They were tak­ing the boat to dry dock in Bal­ti­more with­out cars or pas­sen­gers, and as they were cross­ing the Bay, so the story goes, I guess they fig­ured it was in­evitable, and some­body had to be first, so they rammed the Bay Bridge,” Lore­tan­geli said. “Ac­ci­den­tally, of course.”

Five months af­ter the new Bay Bridge opened, the ferry line stopped run­ning.

Poore de­cided to try a ca­reer as a wa­ter­man, and Rea joined him.

The two caught crabs in the sum­mer and oys­ters in the win­ter, work­ing the Tred Avon and Miles rivers, and some­times even the Po­tomac, their son Larry Poore said.

Larry Poore said those were long days for his par­ents, when they got up at 4 a.m. to work the wa­ter, then drove to the city to de­liver the catch, not re­turn­ing home un­til 6 p.m. or later.

Even­tu­ally, they moved from work­ing the wa­ter to sell­ing live and steamed crabs from a free-stand­ing shack at Kastell’s Ma­rina, where the St. Michaels Har­bour Inn, Ma­rina & Spa is now.

The owner of the ma­rina, Fred Kastell, is cred­ited with giv­ing Poore the nick­name “Big Al.”

“It seems as though that nick­name stuck,” Lore­tan­geli said.

In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, they moved their grow­ing busi­ness to their garage at home in Bozman, and it was there that they be­gan to de­velop a whole­sale busi­ness, buy­ing and dis­tribut­ing crabs.

“Big Al’s catch would ar­rive by 8 a.m., and by noon, the Big Al’s seafood trucks were on the road to crab houses and restau­rants.” Lore­tan­geli said.

Big Al’s de­liv­ered crabs to Washington, Bal­ti­more, Philadel­phia, Ocean City and most places in be­tween.

“One of the ba­sic re­quire­ments of be­ing a child or a grand­child of Big Al and Rea is that you bet­ter learn to drive a crab truck pretty fast,” Lore­tan­geli said.

In the late 1970s, the Poores be­gan look­ing for a way to get their seafood busi­ness out of their home.

They bought the old Sam’s Ser­vice Sta­tion on Tal­bot Street in St. Michaels in 1978.

They kept the build­ing as a ser­vice sta­tion for a year, then be­gan to tran­si­tion to a whole­sale and re­tail seafood dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter and deli. They tore the old gas pumps out.

From 1980 on, the busi­ness was known as Big Al’s Mar­ket, with whole­sale seafood dis­tri­bu­tion in the back, and re­tail seafood and deli in the front.

Tourists and towns­folk alike could stop by and get a short-or­der crab cake, sub or scrab­ble sand­wich, along with many other items on the menu.

At first, it was carry-out only, with no seats, but even­tu­ally they added a few ta­bles in­side and out for peo­ple to re­lax and en­joy the food.

“My fa­ther and my mother, Rea, never missed a day,” Alan Poore Jr. said in a 2014 in­ter­view with place for lo­cals and those just pass­ing through. Lots of fa­mous peo­ple also showed up at Big Al’s Mar­ket, in­clud­ing former Bal­ti­more Colts; Seat­tle Sea­hawks and Washington Red­skins line­backer Mike Cur­tis; Bal­ti­more Ori­oles third base­man Brooks Robin­son; former Sec­re­tary of De­fense Don­ald Rums­feld; former Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney; and former Cana­dian ice hockey de­fense­man Bryan Wat­son.

“If you were well known, Dad would make you sign a piece of white pa­per,” Alan Poore Jr. said. “We had a whole wall of white pa­per.”

He said his fa­ther and mother made it a point to greet ev­ery per­son who walked through the door.

“It was at the store that Big Al was in his glory,” Lore­tan­geli said. He said so­cial­iz­ing and in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple was one of Big Al’s fa­vorite pas­times.

“If he wasn’t in the back of the store talk­ing to his crab­bers, he was in the front of the store greet­ing and talk­ing to his cus­tomers, telling them sto­ries,” Lore­tan­geli said.

“In his long his­tory, Big Al em­ployed over 200 boys, girls, men and women,” he said. Sev­eral of them were in the church for the fu­neral.

And nearly all of Big Al’s five chil­dren, five grand­chil­dren and seven great­grand­chil­dren worked in the store. They also have one great-great-grand­daugh­ter.

Poore was a de­voted Ori­oles fan and avid East­ern Shore­man. Along with work­ing on the wa­ter, mak­ing a liv­ing from the wa­ter, he en­joyed hunt­ing.

He was a stal­wart mem­ber of the com­mu­nity, a former pres­i­dent of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Seafood As­so­ci­a­tion, former board mem­ber of the Miles River Yacht Club, life­time mem­ber of Ducks Un­lim­ited Bay Hun­dred Chap­ter and a life­long mem­ber of the Moose Lodge 1520.

“How­ever, his great­est ac­com­plish­ment was his gen­eros­ity,” Lore­tan­geli said. “Many mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing fel­low wa­ter­men, em­ploy­ees and fam­ily, all ben­e­fited from his will­ing­ness to share his and Rea’s good for­tune from their hard work.”

“I guess when you work dou­ble shifts for 40 years, good things hap­pen,” Lore­tan­geli said.

“Ev­ery­one I met knew I was Big Al’s great-grand­daugh­ter,” Mur­phy said. “Nine times out of 10, peo­ple would come up to me and say how great my (great) grand­fa­ther was. Many peo­ple thought the world of him.”

Big Al and Rea re­tired from their store in 2012, and their sons Alan Jr. and Larry took over the busi­ness. In the after­math of the eco­nomic down­turn of 2008, the store build­ing had to be sold. Then Big Al’s Mar­ket closed its doors in late 2013. Since then, the build­ing has been de­mol­ished.

In re­tire­ment and even be­fore, Big Al en­er­get­i­cally kept his rock­ing chair and his out­door swing in con­stant mo­tion, even wear­ing them out.

“The man never met a rock­ing chair he couldn’t break,” Lore­tan­geli said. “Rea searched far and wide for the in­de­struc­tible rock­ing chair.”

Lore­tan­geli said Big Al kept his out­door swing go­ing “500 miles an hour.”

“That’s only a slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion,” Lore­tan­geli said.

He said any­one who wanted to join him on the swing would have to time it cor­rectly and jump on, be­cause he would slow down only a lit­tle and not stop.

“He im­pacted ev­ery one he met,” Mur­phy said. “Whether it was his iconic, loud voice, his work ethic or his car­ing, kind heart.”

“All of us here to­day are bet­ter peo­ple for hav­ing known him,” Lore­tan­geli said, “and for get­ting to share his very full and won­der­ful life. We love you, Big Al, and will miss you. Rest in peace.”

Poore is sur­vived by his wife of 64 years, Rea Sweitzer Poore; daugh­ter, Karen Poore Vin­cent and her hus­band Bill; son, Alan T. Poore Jr. and his wife He­len; son, Mark Har­ri­son Poore, all of Bozman; son, Larry D. Poore and his wife Sharon of St. Michaels; five grand­chil­dren, in­clud­ing Johnny Scharch, Jen­nifer Mur­phy and her hus­band Chuck, Cara Poore Hughes, Thomas Kyle Poore and his wife Mea­gan, and Charles Joshua Poore. He is sur­vived by seven great-grand­chil­dren, as well as many nieces and neph­ews, and one great­great-grand­daugh­ter.

He was pre­ceded in death by his par­ents; his daugh­ter, Kim­berly Jean Poore; brother, Wil­liam G. Poore II; and sis­ter, Loretta Poore Daven­port.

Fu­neral ser­vices were held at the Bozman United Methodist Church with the Rev. Martin Wi­ley of­fi­ci­at­ing.

Pall­bear­ers were Bert Blades, Jeff Richard­son, Trevor Ham­mon, Bryant Pin­der, Phil Ham­ble­ton and Keller Lon­ge­necker.

Mu­sic was pro­vided by Martha Bo­gan and Bert Thamert.

Fu­neral ser­vices were pro­vided by the Framp­tom Fu­neral Home — Ostrowski Chapel in St. Michaels.

Ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy may be made in his name to the Tal­bot Hospice Foun­da­tion, 586 Cyn­wood Drive, Eas­ton, MD 21601.

Share mem­o­ries with the fam­ily at www.framp­tom. com.

Com­mu­nity News Ed­i­tor Katie Wil­lis con­trib­uted to this story. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @chrisp_s­tar­dem. Email me at cpolk@star­dem.com.

ALAN THOMAS POORE SR.

PHOTO BY HE­LEN POORE

“Big Al” Poore, left, was an avid East­ern Shore­man and fre­quently hunted with his sons, Alan Poore Jr. and Larry Poore.

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