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No time to retire for this volunteer

Albert R. Timmel could have said, upon retiring in 1984, that he wanted to rest up a bit.

After all, Timmel had served in the Army during World War II, then worked at Buffalo wire companies until he was 67.

He also had raised five kids with his wife, Ruth, in their home on Kensington Avenue.

Nobody would have blamed Timmel for taking a little time for himself. But that's precisely the opposite of what he did.

Now Timmel, who turned 94 on Monday, has been honored by the Erie County Legislature for his commitment to service and volunteerism over the three decades since his retirement.

The Buffalo resident has worked since 1984 delivering meals to homebound people as part of the Meals on Wheels program.

He still volunteers for the program -- now with his daughter Teresa, following the death 10 years ago of his wife, who was his volunteering companion.

"It was gratifying work," Timmel, who goes by "Al" among family and friends, said of his years of volunteering. "I was giving back, for my success at work and for my health.

"And to keep busy."

Timmel's retirement has been a lesson in service.

Besides Meals on Wheels, the 1930s graduate of East High School also volunteered for many years at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church on Cleveland Drive, doing mechanical and maintenance work, such as painting classrooms and refurbishing the Cheektowaga church's main doors.

Timmel, who attended the minor seminary as a young man and once thought of becoming a Catholic priest, also served as a Eucharistic minister, delivering Holy Communion to patients at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, before his mobility was reduced due to spinal surgeries.

"He's not good at sitting still," a daughter, Pam, said with a smile.

Timmel said the secret to his passion for volunteering was his stick-to-it nature, which saw him drive through snowstorms and bad roads to deliver food to shut-in residents all over the Cheektowaga area.

"You get used to it," he said. "The weather -- the snow, all that -- you get through it somehow. There was only one time I thought we were going to have to turn back."

Timmel said he received recompense during those years from the gratitude he got from homebound people he visited. Sometimes, he said, he even felt like he made a crucial difference to them.

"We'd give people their medications, or put their drops in water," he said. "On one occasion, a woman didn't answer the door. We went to the neighbor's. She had a key, and we went in and found the patient lying on the floor between two beds. She had gotten up during the night and didn't have the strength to get up."

"She was all right," Timmel said of the woman he helped.

Timmel and his wife, the former Ruth Heckman, raised five children: Pam of Buffalo, Steven of Snyder, Teresa of Williamsville, Peggy of Williamsburg, Va., and Rob of Newbern, N.C. Timmel has 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Timmel's wife -- and longtime partner on his Meals on Wheels runs -- died in 2002. The couple had been married since 1946.

Since Ruth's death, Timmel has delivered Meals on Wheels food with one of his grandchildren, as well as with his daughter Teresa.

"I enjoy the physical contact with the people," said Timmel, who has undergone three back procedures in the past six years. "Since I got physically handicapped, I just assist my daughter. She does all the running."

When he does have a little free time, Timmel enjoys watching baseball on TV -- the Yankees are his team -- and working jigsaw puzzles.

Does he see himself volunteering much longer?

"I don't know. That's not up to me," he said with a smile.

But one thing he does know for sure. When it comes to how he's spent his retirement years, he wouldn't change a thing.

"I've enjoyed it," Timmel said. "I've learned there are a lot of people who are worse off than I am."

email: cvogel@buffnews.com