Saturday, December 2, 2023

Alonzo B. ‘Burl’ Kendall: ‘A Good Provider and a Calm and Caring Force’


MendoFever wants to provide a place for the community to honor those who have lived their lives and passed on. If you want to share the story of someone you love with the community, please send a photo and a written piece to matthewplafever@gmail.com

Alonzo B. “Burl” Kendall with his k-9 sentry dog Carlos in the 1950s [Picture from Sheriff Matt Kendall]

My father, Alonzo B. “Burl” Kendall left us on November 18, 2022, at the age of 87. He moved on comfortably and quietly while relaxing in his chair at the home of his daughter and son-in-law in Willits.

He was preceded by his wife Judith Colleen Hurley Kendall who passed in May of 2003, his brother Herbert Leon Kendall in 2016, and his grandson Justin Shane Dale who in 2021.

My father was born in Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast on March 13, 1935, to Alonzo Francis Kendall and Fern Anderson Kendall, at the Fort Bragg Hospital which is now the “Sign of the Whale”. They returned to the family ranch on the Garcia River in Point Arena the following day. Three years later his brother Herbert Leon was born.

My father lived with his parents on the Garcia River until about 1942 when World War II began. His parents separated and both moved to the Bay Area to help with the war effort. His father worked at the Mare Island shipyards, while his mother worked as a nurse in San Francisco. During this time, he went to live with his grandparents Courtney and Ada Kendall in Point Arena. Courtney Kendall’s home was located where the Point Arena High School currently sits.

Dad often spoke of his childhood and the shenanigans he and his brother would get into. Dad spoke about hunting deer and quail around Point Arena. Fishing on the Garcia River and playing down at the wharf with Leonard Craig’s children.  

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An aunt and uncle, John and Beatrice Acquistapace, lived in Irish Beach and he would often provide quail to them occasionally sneaking a robin in with the cleaned bids. Dad said Uncle Johnny never complained and dad opined his Italian relatives preferred robins to quail anyway. 

Dad told me a story of hunting quail in the Manchester cemetery with his brother. At one point Uncle Herb called out to him “Burl come here; I think you’re dead.”  Dad said he walked to where his brother was standing and found a headstone marked “Alonzo B Kendall,” his great grandfather’s place of burial. Dad said he was about 12 years old at the time, and it was the first time he had ever thought of his mortality.

Dad often spoke of his grandparents. He described riding the steamship from Point Arena to San Franciso with them. He also told me stories of his childhood and traveling from Point Arena to Boonville with his grandfather Courtney Kendall. He told me they would stay at the Boonville Hotel which his Great-Grandfather Alonzo Burnham Kendall had built. Dad enjoyed the family history in Mendocino County and told me it took almost a full day to drive from Point Arena to Boonville with his grandfather. My father relished hearing about the pioneers and the family history within the county. 

Dad lived in Point Arena with his grandparents until he reached his teenage years, and they sold their ranch and moved to Santa Rosa. Dad attended Piner School, and eventually moved in with his mother and stepfather near Petaluma. 

Dad would leave every summer and go work somewhere. Sometimes logging, sometimes mill work, and occasionally a union job. All required hard work, at the time they also required that he lie about his age. Dad explained the old driver’s licenses were fairly simple to alter when the need arose. 

He spoke of working at the Comptche sawmill with Fritz Kuny. He said Fritz Kuny could turn the worst job on earth into an entire shift of fun. He worked for Don Philbrick who my father always referred to as “Mr. Philbrick.”  Dad spoke of Mr. Philbrick with great reverence, stating he was an honest and fair man. Dad later employed Mr. Philbrick’s grandson at Cal-fire. I know he felt honored to have this young man working for him.

Dad graduated from high school and moved north to Eureka where he went to work for the Northern Pacific Railroad. He worked on a section crew, then the bridge and trestle crew and eventually he moved up to the rank of carpenter. At age 19 he became a locomotive fireman on the old steam engines. These engines burned crude oil. Dad said he enjoyed this job, but he recalled that if you weren’t paying attention, you could cause the engine boiler to explode. 

One night in 1955 Dad said he was called into work and met with an engineer in the rail yard. He entered the train engine and couldn’t find the firebox. The engineer explained this engine was diesel-electric and his new job was throwing a switch to sound a horn at the rail crossings. Dad said after this trip he realized he would probably be out of a job soon. The following week he met with an Air Force recruiter. 

Dad joined the Air Force in late 1955 in hopes he would become an electrician. While completing his medical screening they found he had an issue with an uncommon form of color blindness which didn’t allow him to see subtle shades of color. He was immediately reclassified and assigned to the position of air policeman. Dad completed basic training in Texas. Shortly after completing training, he found himself in Germany where he was stationed until the beginning of 1960. 

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He had a k-9 sentry dog named Carlos. Dad had grown up with hunting dogs, specifically hounds and bird dogs. It wasn’t long before he grew bored of patrolling missile pads. Dad was an avid outdoorsman who could load ammunition. In a short amount of time, he was turning M1 Carbine ammunition into small shotgun shells which could be fired through his issued rifle. He and his fellow air policemen began the task of training their dogs to hunt rabbits. Dad said it was a great way to pass long nights and the German residents around the air base would trade beer and cigarettes for rabbits. The soldiers later purchased fine German air rifles which assisted greatly in protecting the missiles from rabbits. He told me the sentry dog houses were the perfect place to hide contraband such as air rifles as no one on the air base was brave enough to enter the kennels. Dad was stationed in Germany for many years and spoke about his time there. He said it was an incredible time and he enjoyed every moment. 

Dad returned to the United States after an honorable discharge from service. He immediately reached out to his Uncle Johnny and Aunt Beaty Acquistapace asking if he could come stay with them at Irish Beach. Johnny had a dairy in Irish Beach and dad milked cows for room and board while he looked for a job. Dad always loved Uncle John and Aunt Bea. We purchased several dairy calves from them over the years. Once I was allowed to ride in the bed of an international pickup truck all the way from Irish Beach to Covelo with a drop calf. My younger brothers had to sit in the cab with dad green with envy. They were about 4 years old, and I was maybe 7 at the time, so it was a good call on dad’s part. 

In 1960, my dad went to work for the Mendocino County Department of Transportation as a truck driver and heavy equipment operator. He worked with Jerry Gilmore and Daryl Holloway. One night Jerry Gilmore told my father he had a niece named Judy Hurley who was coming over and asked my father if he would like to meet her. Dad met her and 21 days later, they were married in Reno, Nev. 

They were married in 1960 and lived in Point Arena. Dad worked for Mendocino County while mom worked for Ralph McMillan in the General Store. Dad would get off work at the county yard and then work a few hours a night pumping gas at Joe Scaramella’s gas station while he waited for mom to get off work. Dad often bragged just a little that he and mom had three jobs when many people were having trouble finding one. My parents were married for five years before they had any children. 

In 1965, my oldest sister Britt Kendall Grable was born. The next year, in 1966, dad took a transfer to Covelo. Much of the property his family had owned on the coast had been sold and his opportunities for hunting were getting fewer and fewer.  Dad always enjoyed the forests around Covelo. 

Mom and Dad were living in Covelo when my second sister Amy Kendall Dale was born in 1967. I was born in 1969 and then came the twins, Mark, and Luke Kendall in 1973. 

Dad took a job with the California Division of Forestry and Fire Protection (now CAL-FIRE) in 1968 and worked for them until he retired in 1992. Dad rose to the rank of Captain, however never promoted beyond that point. I asked him why he had not, and he told me it would have required us to move which he had no interest in, and he wasn’t going to leave mom with “you heathens”, his favorite description of his three sons. 

Over the years I have spoken with many firemen who worked for dad. I have always been proud of the fact he was well respected as a good captain who was fair and honest to a fault.

Dad purchased a 10-acre parcel out Hamms Pass Road surrounded by National Forest when we were young. We spent much of our time out there hunting, fishing, trapping, and cutting firewood. We built a small cabin out there and spent nearly all summer and every fall in this area. Dad would have spent every day of his life in the forest if work had not gotten in his way. Covelo in my childhood was a place of incredible freedom.  Bicycles turned into horses which lead to long trails into the forest.  I am certain this is why my father loved this place. 

Following his retirement, Dad would spend summers traveling a little and growing a vegetable garden with mom. Cutting firewood, raising a few head of cattle, helping all of his children with building projects, or other labors which needed to be tended to. He continued chasing his passion for fishing, hunting, and spending long days in the forest. Dad was always one hell of a buck hunter. 

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We took several trips to go hunting or fishing as he grew older. Mom passed in 2003 and somewhere around 2015, we began to realize Dad’s memory was having some problems. This slowed him down quite a bit. Eventually, my oldest sister Britt took on the lion’s share of caring for my father. A registered nurse by trade, she had the skills and knowledge to keep him healthy and at home on his place. Dad was able to remain with family until his passing.  

The last few years of his life, he continued to enjoy long drives and days in the forest, looking for bucks, bears, quail, and grouse.  As his memory grew worse and he forgot our names he still knew he wanted to go for a ride in the forest which we often took.    

Burl Kendall was a good husband and father.  He was a good provider and a calm and caring force in the lives of his children. I can say with certainty he and my mother always did their best for all of us. I don’t believe we could have asked for anything more. 

-Matt Kendall

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  1. Matt,
    Such a heartfelt tribute to your Dad. Burl was certainly a dedicated family man and instilled the value of the appreciation of nature and hard work!
    Gail Yulich

  2. Beautiful tribute Matt. . . I can still see your dad’s half cracked grin on his face as he told some of his stories. The man fades, but the love and memories remain.

  3. We are so sorry for all of you in the loss of your Father. All of you are in our prayers & thoughts. Such a wonderful tribute to your Father and his journey in life. All of you & your Mother was his blessings . May all of you take comfort in the memories you have to share with one another.
    Friends of Mark & Tamara

  4. Beautifully wrote, he was a proud and honest man. What a wonderful life he lived. Sending love to all the family. Rest In Peace Burl. – Katie McPherson Gordon

  5. Matt: Sorry for your loss. Your dad was a true straight shooter (in multiple contexts). He was an instructor at my CDF FFI class and my first Captain at Covelo. Through working with him (and the Twins), I remain conversant in Covelese. Hope he is sitting on the top of a mountain “steeper than a cow’s face,” hunting rabbits that are running “hell west and crooked” on all sides.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
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