Al Fridell #1744, retired Seattle Police Director (Captain,) passed away on September 9, 2016 after a long illness. He was 89 years of age upon passing.
Al was one of five brothers that were born in Chicago. The family moved to Seattle in late 1938 because Boeing was hiring, as the war in Europe was growing more intense. The brothers attended Garfield High. All, participated in sports. Al graduated as the war in the Pacific was winding down. He joined the Army Air Corps. He was a crew chief for B-17s. He was part of the Army of Occupation in Japan. When his tour was up in early 1949, he returned to Seattle. He met Patricia and married her six months later.
Al was a pioneer in the weight lifting business in Seattle. In early 1950, he opened the Century Athletic Club. He not only worked out in his gym, but on the side, he moved furniture to supplement the family income because he now had two growing sons. A couple of local professional wrestlers started to come to the gym. They noticed Al was big and coordinated, so they introduced him to the profession. Al was good. He got to meet many of the old pros like Gorgeous George, Leo “Battler” Garibaldi, Bronko “The Horse” Nagurski, and Pepper Gomez. Al lost all his front teeth during a match when an opponent face-planted him into the ring’s turnbuckle. He began to travel throughout the West Coast as the Masked Marvel.
In 1956, Al and his younger brother Stan #1746, decided to join the Seattle Police together. They were hired on the same day, December 17, 1956, just in time for the holiday moon-lighting shifts. Al worked the Wallingford Precinct for his first five years on the job. And, he continued to wrestle. In 1961, “Gorgeous George” was wrestling “The Battler Garibaldi” at the Aqua Theater at Green Lake (by the Shell House) for the first floating mat match. The Battler threw Gorgeous over the ropes, into the lake. Gorgeous could not swim, so Al had to “rescue” George. This made the local and national sports news. The Department was not pleased with the notoriety, so Al was transferred to the Seattle Center for the World’s Fair. There, he met all kinds of famous entertainers. He was Elvis’s body guard, and also worked security for The Stones, Beatles, and other groups. This did not hurt his wrestling jobs. In fact, it helped him get a few movie spots as an extra. The movies included McQ with John Wayne, It Happened One Night at the World’s Fair with Elvis, and 99 and 44/100ths% Dead with Richard Harris. Frank Sinatra encouraged Al to do a casting call in Hollywood for one of Frank’s movies.
At the end of the Fair, Al went to Harbor as one of the pilots for the Departments new helicopter. Three years later he became a diver.
In the summer of 1967, Al was promoted to sergeant with the ultimatum to choose between being on the Department or being a full time wrestler. Al chose the Department and went to Patrol. Now he had to go back to moving furniture with his brother Stan, Dale Schenck #2137 and Shawn O’Kinsella #2076. One job Shawn was working with Al. They found weight lifting equipment to be moved with the rest of the furniture. After a while, Shawn noticed he was working by himself, so he goes looking for Al. There he was with all the neighborhood kids, lifting weights instead of loading them into the truck.
One year later, he returns to Harbor as the Sergeant Pilot/Diver. The next year Al and Carl Sandbeck #1841, were made lieutenants, but due to a Civil Service snafu, both were riffed back to sergeants. This did not discourage either one. Al went to Patrol for eighteen months, then the Detectives for a year, and finally back to Harbor in 1971. He flew the helicopter until the Department abandoned the program as too expensive in the mid 1970’s. Al stayed in Harbor and was promoted to the Communications Lieutenant in 1978. To celebrate his promotion, he went to a Thunderbirds hockey game in the Seattle Center Coliseum. The security crew was having trouble with five young drunk men. They asked Al and another policeman to sit next to the five trouble-makers. During the match, the five guys started throwing beer and causing a disturbance. Then, one police officer asked them to knock it off, so they punched him, knocking him over the seats. This is when Al stepped in. He knocked out two of the trouble-makers and slapped a third. The remaining sat down and behaved the rest of the match. So, it was just like the old saying “Al went to the fights and a hockey game broke out.”
In 1980, Al was appointed Director of Communications. The 911 personnel loved him. Three years later, he retired with 27 years of service on SPD (Randy Tibbs succeeded him in Radio.) Then Al went to be an Assistant Chief of Police under Dean Phillips (a vested SPD Major) in the Tacoma Police Department. Al stayed with Dean until 1990.
When Al left police work in 1990, he went back to his old roots of being a personal trainer. He did this well into his late 70’s.
Al was preceded in death by his young brother Stan, who died on June 30, 2010. Al is survived by his wife of 57 years, Pat; and his two sons, Jeff and Steve; and several grandchildren.