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A friend from the beginning

Published March 20, 2007


SEMINOLE - The gunfire heard in Seminole early March 13 was a 21-gun salute to mark the passing of a man who was known locally as a community activist but was so much more.

Albert Redman Jr. started his career managing restaurants in Toledo, Ohio, before enlisting in the U.S. Army as a private in 1942. Three wars later, he was a brigadier general, had served as head of the communications agency at the White House, and had helped prepare the way for then-President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China.

Locally, he helped organize residents of unincorporated Seminole in a successful battle to avoid being annexed.

Those were just a few of his accomplishments.

Mr. Redman, 86, died after a lengthy illness March 7 at Palm Gardens of Largo while under the care of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

A memorial service was held March 13 at Oakhurst United Methodist Church in Seminole. About 100 attended what the Rev. Johnny Bartha called "Al's going away party."

"He didn't retire. He became active in the community," said Roger Wilson, a fellow activist and friend. That involvement and willingness to become involved, Wilson said, made Mr. Redman a prime example of the "Greatest Generation."

Jane Muhrlin, head of the Pinellas County Connection Center located in Seminole, met Mr. Redman during the annexation dispute.

"The minute you talked to him, you had a friend. It was instantaneous," Muhrlin said. "He always had a kind word to say about everybody. He was just a pleasant man to deal with."

Muhrlin, like many of Mr. Redman's friends, recalled being surprised when she discovered he had been a general. It was not something he bragged about.

"I was floored," she said.

Also surprised by Mr. Redman's background was the Rev. Dr. Frank Leeds, assistant pastor of Oakhurst Methodist. Leeds recalled Mr. Redman's involvement with the church, serving at pancake breakfasts and cleaning up afterward. One day the two were talking and a passer-by said, "Hi, General."

"I had no idea Al was the general and I'd known him a few years," Leeds said.

Mr. Redman seldom talked of his war experiences, but Leeds said he remembered being told of his return from Vietnam. Mr. Redman landed in San Francisco and was hailed while walking through the airport. He walked over to the person who had called out and "the person spit on him. And Al was so shocked by that, hurt by that. ... I don't think he ever went back to San Francisco."

Leeds visited Mr. Redman many times in his final weeks and said his sense of humor remained intact. He found him seated, twisted in a chair one day. The doctor came in and told the general he would have to be straightened out.

"Al looked at the doctor and said, 'You don't know the half of it. ... I don't even want any of my friends to see me tilted to the left. I am a right-winger. If you can't straighten me out, at least make sure I'm tilted to the right.' "

Even though he seldom talked of his military life, it did, at times, weigh upon him, Bartha said.

When the two would sit and talk, Mr. Redman would refer to his experiences in World War II and his lost comrades. He would ask, "Why did I live and they didn't?"

The general also referred to his survival in Vietnam when the Viet Cong overran Pleiku and killed eight Americans. Mr. Redman would again ask why he had survived when others died.

"Now maybe he's got the why," Bartha said.

[Last modified March 20, 2007, 00:44:22]

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